The serine-threonine GSK3 displays a crucial role in different cancer-pathogenetic pathways, including the PI3K/AKT, Wnt β-catenin and NF-κB signaling cascades, either promoting or counteracting cell survival. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of GSK3 in multiple myeloma (MM) cell growth. GSK3α and β total and phosphorylated protein levels were found differentially expressed in malignant plasma cells as compared to normal resting B-lymphocytes and to normal in vitro generated plasmablasts. Intriguingly, in freshly isolated malignant plasmacells from patients, most of GSK3 was found colocalized with Wnt receptor LRP6 and casein kinase I next to the cell membrane as compared to normal plasmacells or B-cells from other malignancies, wher it was distributed in the cytosol and in the nucleus, thus suggesting a peculiar role of this kinase in these cells. Upon stimulation of MM cells with IL-6 and IGF-I, GSK3 enzymatic activity was hampered, while stimulation with TNFα did not affect GSK3 function nor the early events in NF-κB activation. Basal and IL-6 and IGF-I driven proliferation of MM cells was slightly impaired by GSK3 blockade. Interestingly, GSK3β−/− mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) proliferated slightly slower as compared to GSK3β+/+ cells; however, GSK3α inhibition and IL-6 and IGF-I stimulation, resulted in much higher proliferation of GSK3β −/− cells. Intriguingly, GSK3 inhibition with specific compounds (SB216763 and SB415286) caused a significant rescue from cell death of growth factor-deprived MM cells while resulted in reduced cell proliferation and apoptosis of MM cells grown with serum or growth factors. When GSK3 inhibitors were added to MM cell cultured with bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC), MM cells survival increased and NF-κB and β-catenin-mediated gene transcription (of IAPs and cyclinD1, respectively) was deregulated. GSK3 activity inhibition did not modify the rate of proteasome inhibitor-induced cell death in co-colture experiments with BMSC, suggesting that the sensitivity to bortezomib-induced MM cell apoptosis is independent on GSK3. Altogether, our data indicate that

  • GSK3 localizes on the cell membrane in primary MM cells;

  • GSK3 is differently regulated downstream from growth factors or TNFα-induced signaling pathways in MM cells;

  • a peculiar role of GSK3 in malignant MM cells as compared to normal MEFs with regard to cell proliferation; and

  • a critical role of this kinase in regulating the MM microenvironment.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.