Multiple myeloma (MM) is a neoplasm of plasma cells that often remains fatal despite the use of high-dose chemotherapy with hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In the clinical setting, the introduction of novel agents, such as proteasome inhibitors and immunomodulatory drugs, has improved the clinical outcomes of both patients with newly diagnosed MM and patients with advanced MM. However, most patients eventually relapse and develop drug resistance. T-LAK cell-originated protein kinase (TOPK), also known as PDZ-binding kinase (PBK), is a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK)-like serine/threonine kinase that plays a critical role in many cellular functions, such as cell proliferation, apoptotic cell death, and inflammation, in normal tissues. Because the expression of TOPK is up-regulated during mitosis and is activated by the Cdk1/cyclin B1 complex, TOPK is thought to have a role in cytokinesis. While the expression of TOPK is very low in most normal human tissues except for testis and placenta, it is overexpressed in various malignant neoplasms, indicating its crucial role in tumorigenesis. Phosphorylation of TOPK leads to the activation of the MAPK signaling pathway including p38 and Ras extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Moreover, TOPK interacts with p53 tumor suppressor protein and inhibits its function. Ribosomal protein S6 kinase (RSK2) is a downstream target of the ERK/MAPK signaling cascade and it has a pivotal role in cell survival and proliferation. Recent studies suggest that RSK2 inhibition induces apoptotic cell death and sensitizes MM cells to lenalidomide. Suppression of p53 function is also involved in MM progression. Taken together, these data suggest that TOPK might be an attractive target for new therapeutic agents against this incurable hematological malignancy. HI-TOPK-032, which is a potent and specific inhibitor of TOPK, occupies the ATP-binding site of TOPK and thereby suppresses TOPK kinase activity. In the present study, we investigated the role of TOPK/PBK in MM as a potential therapeutic target by using HI-TOPK-032. MTSand trypan blue dye exclusion assays showed that HI-TOPK-032 inhibited the proliferation of various MM cell lines, including U266, RPMI8226, MM1.S, OPM-2, and KMS-11, in a dose- (0 to 10 mM) and time- (0 to 72 h) dependent manner. To examine the mechanisms behind the growth inhibition effect induced by HI-TOPK-032, assays for apoptotic cell death were performed; these assays demonstrated that HI-TOPK-032 induced both early and late apoptosis in MM cells. To investigate the molecular mechanisms of HI-TOPK-032-induced cell death in MM cells, the expression of various cell death-associated proteins and down-stream molecules of TOPK was examined. Western blotting analysis showed that HI-TOPK-032 arrested cell growth and induced apoptotic cell death in MM cells in a dose-dependent manner by reducing t he phosphorylation of ERK and RSK2, thereby reducing the expression of the target molecules of RSK2, i.e., MCL1 and c-Myc. Moreover, HI-TOPK-032 induced p53 expression in a dose-dependent manner. We next examined the effects of HI-TOPK-032 on bortezomib (BTZ)-resistant MM cells, which represent an urgent issue in clinics and for which a therapeutic solution is important. Interestingly, HI-TOPK-032 inhibited the proliferation of both BTZ-sensitive wild-type KMS cells and BTZ-resistant KMS cells, suggesting that BTZ resistance can be overcome by targeting TOPK. Because our results showed that HI-TOPK-032 reduced the phosphorylation of RSK2, and previous studies have suggested that RSK2 inhibition sensitized MM cells to lenalidomide, we next studied the effects of HI-TOPK-032 in combination with lenalidomide on MM cell growth. HI-TOPK-032 and lenalidomide synergisticallyinduced growth arrest in not only lenalidomide-sensitive MM cells, but also in lenalidomide-resistant cells. To determine whether HI-TOPK-032 can re-sensitize BTZ-resistant cells to the anti-MM activity of BTZ, the effects of the combination of HI-TOPK-032 and BTZ were tested using an MTS assay. Interestingly, HI-TOPK-032 was able to re-sensitize BTZ-resistant MM cells to BTZ. These results indicate that the inhibition of TOPK may serve as an attractive therapeutic option for both patients with BTZ- or lenalidomide-resistant MM. In conclusion, these data suggest that TOPK/PBK can be a promising molecular target for the treatment of MM.


Kizaki:Nippon Shinyaku Co., Ltd.: Research Funding; Ono Phranacutical Co., Ltd.: Consultancy; Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co., Ltd.: Research Funding; Chugai Phrarmaceutical Co., Ltd.: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.