Therapeutic advances in multiple myeloma have improved the outcomes of patients with this malignant plasma cell disorder, but the disease course is still strongly influenced by both innate, or primary, as well as acquired, or secondary mechanisms of drug resistance. Identification and validation of genes that may mediate these phenotypes is therefore of importance, since they could be useful prognostic markers, and also potential targets to overcome the emergence of resistance, or possibly preclude its emergence altogether.
To identify non-redundant determinants of chemoresistance, we designed a robust, high-throughput RNA interference (RNAi) screen targeting 9610 human genes. The screen involved retroviral-mediated transduction first of HeLa cervical carcinoma cells with either the RNAi library, or with non-targeting retrovirus particles. After infection, cells were selected with puromycin, and treated with different concentrations of doxorubicin and cisplatin. Doxorubicin (Dox) treatment led to 33 surviving colonies from the cells transduced with the shRNA library, cisplatin (Cis) treatment led produced 22 surviving colonies, while non-targeting retrovirus-infected cells failed to form colonies after treatment. Screening was performed to identify the shRNA target gene(s) in each colony, and genes that were identified in both Dox- and Cis-treated HeLa cells, and that were expressed in myeloma cells, were selected for further study. These studies were supported by the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center SPORE in Multiple Myeloma.
TJP1 (zona occludens (ZO)-1) was identified as one gene whose knockdown promoted survival in Dox- and Cis-treated HeLa cells, and which was expressed in myeloma cell lines and in primary plasma cells. To further examine its potential role in myeloma chemosensitivity, we performed mRNA and protein expression profiling in a panel of 11 cell lines and observed that TJP1 expression was silenced in 3 cell lines (ARP-1, INA-6, and MOLP-8), while it was moderately to highly expressed in 7 cell lines (including RPMI 8226, MM1.S, and U266). Comparing TJP1-positive MM1.S cells to TJP1-null MOLP-8 cells, the latter displayed a significantly higher median inhibitory concentration to Dox and Cis. Knockdown of TJP1 in RPMI 8226 and U266 cells, which produced a >75% target suppression, was sufficient to reduce the proportion of apoptotic cells in the sub-G1 fraction after treatment with Dox or Cis compared to control cells. Conversely, MOLP-8 cells transfected with human TJP1 cDNA exhibited an increase in the sub-G1 population in response to Dox and Cis treatment compared to vector controls.
Taken together, these studies support the hypothesis that TJP1 expression mediates myeloma cell resistance to the DNA damaging agents doxorubicin and cisplatin. Further studies are underway to determine the mechanism by which TJP1 influences chemosensitivity, and to validate its impact using in vivo models.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.