In multiple myeloma (MM) the clonal expansion of malignant plasma cells within the bone marrow results in the development of lytic bone lesions due to exacerbated bone resorption. Despite recent progress in its treatment, MM remains incurable and the associated bone disease persists even after complete remission. Thus, identification of new therapeutic approaches that suppress MM cell growth and protect the bone is an unmet need. Aplidin, a novel anti-cancer compound isolated from the marine tunicate Aplidium albicans, exhibits anti-MM activity even in MM cells resistant to conventional chemotherapy and is currently in phase III clinical trials in Europe. However, the effects of Aplidin on bone cells and MM-induced bone disease are unknown. The goal of the current study was to examine the effect of Aplidin, alone or in combination with other anti-MM drugs, on myeloma cells and bone cells (osteocytes, osteoblasts, and osteoclasts) using in vitro approaches.

Aplidin decreased the number of human JJN3 and murine 5TGM1 MM cells with an EC50~10nM, determined by MTT assay, due to decreased cell viability, assessed by Trypan blue exclusion, reaching a 20% increase in MM cell death after 48h. Treatment with glucocorticoids (GC) (10-5M) or Bortezomib (3nM) also decreased MM viability and enhanced the anti-MM activity of Aplidin by 1.6-fold and 2.5-fold, respectively. In addition, Aplidin at >10nM induced MLO-A5 osteocytic dead up to 15% and in combination with GC up to 50%; whereas, in contrast, Bortezomib did not affect osteocyte viability and partially prevented the increase in MLO-A5 cell death induced by Aplidin. Further, 1nM Aplidin increased OB-6 osteoblastic cell death up to 20% and decreased their matrix mineralization capacity, quantified by Alizarin red. These effects were enhanced when Aplidin was combined with GC, but partially prevented by combination of Aplidin with Bortezomib. Cells of the osteoclastic lineage exhibited higher sensitivity to Aplidin in comparison to MM cells or osteoblastic cells, and thus it was tested at lower concentrations. Specifically, 50 pM Aplidin decreased the number of hematopoietic precursors by 15-20%, as quantified by enumerating GM-CSF colonies in cultures established from murine bone marrow. Moreover, Aplidin, at concentrations as low as 0.01 pM, reduced osteoclast precursor commitment and differentiation by 10%, as quantified by enumerating the number of osteoclast precursors maintained in the presence of M-CSF for 3 days with or without Aplidin. In addition, Aplidin decreased by 40% the number of TRAP positive osteoclasts generated after 4 days in the presence of M-CSF and sRANKL; and blunted the rapid (5-15min) increased in ERK phosphorylation induced by Rankl, but did not affect RANKL-induced p38 phosphorylation, suggesting that Aplidin inhibited RANKL-induced differentiation of osteoclast precursors by preventing ERK activation. Lastly, to test the effects of Aplidin on osteoclasts function, mature osteoclasts generated in the presence of M-CSF/sRANKL were detached by trypsinization, replated on bovine dentin slides and exposed to Aplidin for 3 and 7 days. 10pM Aplidin reduced the number of mature osteoclasts by 60% and markedly decreased the number of resorption pits.

In summary, Aplidin (1nM and up) decreases MM cell viability and GC or Borteozmib enhances its anti-MM activity. In addition, Aplidin (10nM and up) decreases osteocytic cell viability and this effect is exacerbated by GC but partially prevented by Bortezomib. Moreover, Aplidin (1nM and up) induces osteoblastic cell death and decreases their mineral production, and these effects are increased by GC, but partially prevented by Bortezomib. Furthermore, Aplidin (0.01pM and up) reduces osteoclast precursor commitment and differentiation, and inhibits mature osteoclast resorption activity. Taken together these findings suggest that combining Aplidin with proteosomal inhibitors may be a novel therapy for MM to enhance anti-tumor responses, decrease bone destruction by inhibiting bone resorption, and prevent potential side effects of Aplidin on cells of the osteoblastic lineage.


Delgado-Calle: PharmaMar: Research Funding. Galmarini: PharmaMar: Employment. Roodman: PharmaMar: Research Funding. Bellido: PharmaMar: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.