The development and maturation of plasma cells is dictated by multiple interacting transcription factors (TFs). C/EBPb (NF-IL6) is a TF regulated by IL-6 and has profound effects on the regulation of growth, survival and differentiation of B-cells. Mice deficient in C/EBPb show impaired generation of B lymphocytes suggesting that C/EBPb plays an important role in B lymphopoiesis. In this study we delineated the effect of C/EBPb on transcription factors critical for myeloma cell proliferation by over-expressing and inhibiting C/EBPb in myeloma cells. Multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines MM.1S, RPMI-8226 and H929 were transiently transfected with GFP, C/EBPb (pcNF-IL6), and truncated C/EBPb with a deletion of the internal spII-spII fragment [pcmNF-IL6(Dspl)] by using Bio-Rad Gene Pulser Xcell, followed by G418 selection. A pool of transfected cells was selected and subjected to thymidine incorporation, flow cytometry and western blot analysis. We found that transfection of a truncated form of C/EBPb induced a down-regulation of C/EBPb in MM cell lines (MM.1S, RPMI-8226 and H929) as measured by western blot. Down-regulation of C/EBPβ significantly inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis of MM cell lines analyzed by annexin V-FITC/PI staining. This was accompanied by a complete down-regulation of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL-2. Further, inhibition of C/EBPb completely decreased IRF-4 expression. In contrast, over-expression of C/EBPb increased protein levels of IRF-4 suggesting that IRF-4 is under control of C/EBPb. IRF-4, which was over-expressed in all our tested MM cells lines, is an essential TF for the generation of plasma cells by regulating TFs like Blimp-1 and PAX-5, which are critical for plasma cell differentiation. Our studies showed that down-regulation of IRF-4 resulted in a complete abrogation of Blimp-1 and PAX-5 suggesting that the expression of these factors is C/EBPb/IRF-4 dependent. In conclusion, our data indicate that C/EBPb is an important key regulator for survival and growth of MM cells. We show for the first time that C/EBPb is a critical regulator upstream of IRF-4. Down-regulation of the C/EBPb and consequently IRF-4 results in complete disruption of the network of TFs necessary for MM growth and survival. Targeting C/EBPb may provide a novel therapeutic approach in the treatment of MM.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.