Multiple myeloma (MM) is a plasma cell malignancy, however, significant abnormalities in T cell function are considered to provide help in uncontrolled growth and survival of MM cells. We have previously reported that IL-17A-producing Th17 cells are elevated in MM, that MM cells express IL-17 receptor, and IL-17A promotes MM cell growth and survival. We have reported that MM cells themselves produce IL-17A as confirmed by RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunostaining providing a possibility of both autocrine and paracrine role for IL-17A in MM. As Notch activation has been implicated in Th17 cell differentiation and IL17A production, we have here investigated the role of Notch pathway activation in IL-17A-mediated MM cell growth within the BM microenvironment. Notch consists of 4 proteins (1-4) and has 5 ligands (DLL-1,3,4 and jagged-1, 2). We analyzed RNA-Seq data from 117 newly-diagnosed MM patients and 18 normal plasma cells and observed high expression of Notch 1, and 2 and Notch target genes Hes-1 and Hey-1 but not Notch 3 and 4 in MM. For Notch 2, isoform 2 was highly predominant. Notch expression on MM cells was further confirmed by flow cytometric analysis (Notch1-84%, Notch2-86% and Notch3-3%). Evaluating functional role of Notch in MM, when MM cells were co-cultured with Notch ligand jagged 2-expressing 3T3 cells, IL-17A was able to further induce Notch target gene Hes-1 by 45%. Interestingly, increase in the expression of Notch 2 was also observed during this interaction (increased full-length protein by 65% and active intra-cellular protein by 145%). We next evaluated effect of both anti-IL-17 antibody and Notch inhibitors on MM cells. Anti-IL-17A monoclonal antibody inhibited full-length Notch2 protein expression by 54% and active intra-cellular protein by 85%, as determined by western blot analysis. The antibody inhibitory activity was confirmed with quantitative PCR. Importantly, IL-17A mAb inhibited Hes-1 protein expression by 83%. With the observed impact of Notch signaling in MM, we next evaluated notch inhibitors MRK003, and compound E, a γ-secretase inhibitors, to determine their impact on MM cell growth and survival. We observe that Notch inhibitors affect MM cell growth (inhibition by 43%%, N=5) and IL-6 production (inhibition by 60%, N=3) in co-culture with bone marrow stromal cells. These preclinical data establish the role of IL-17 as well as Notch signaling in myeloma and provides the rationale to evaluate anti-MM activity of anti-IL-17A monoclonal antibody and Notch inhibitors in MM.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.