Multiple myeloma, a malignant proliferation of differentiated plasma cells, is the second most commonly diagnosed hematologic malignancy, and the number of cases may grow by almost 60% between 2010 and 2030. Recent therapeutic advances, including the use of proteasome inhibitors (PIs), have contributed to a doubling of the median overall survival in myeloma patients. This has been paralleled by an increased understanding of the mutational spectrum in this disease, which was first noted almost three decades ago to harbor KRAS and NRAS mutations. KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF mutations which induce p44/42 Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling are found in about half of myeloma patients, and seem to contribute to proteasome inhibitor (PI) resistance, but the underlying mechanisms still remains elusive.
ANBL-6 and U266 human-derived myeloma cell lines have endogenous wild-type (WT) KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF, and were used in this study. All cell lines were validated through The MD Anderson Cancer Center Characterized Cell Line Core Facility. We established lines stably expressing WT, constitutively active (CA)(G12V/G13D/Q61H), or dominant negative (DN)(S17N) KRAS and NRAS mutants, or V600E or DN BRAF. Cell viability was evaluated using the WST-1 tetrazolium reagent, while the chymotrypsin-, trypsin- and caspase-like activities were determined using fluorogenic substrates.
CA KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF mutants reduced the sensitivity of ANBL-6 and U266 cells to bortezomib and carfilzomib, while their DN variants sensitized cells to both PIs. This was associated with an induction by these CA mutants of the proteasome chymotrypsin-, trypsin- and caspase-like activities, while the DN variants reduced proteasome activity. These activity changes occurred in parallel with increased expression at both the mRNA and protein levels of catalytically active Proteasome subunit beta (PSMB)-8, PSMB9, and PSMB10, and of the proteasome assembly chaperone Proteasome maturation protein (POMP). Mechanistic studies showed that MAPK induction by the CA mutants caused activation of the ETS transcription factor (ELK1), which was found to have consensus binding sites in the promoters of PSMB8, PSMB9, PSMB10, and POMP. Notably, ELK1 suppression reduced PSMB8, PSMB9, PSMB10, and POMP expression, directly linking RAS/RAF/MAPK signaling to proteasome biology, and this suppression enhanced PI sensitivity. Inhibition of MAPK signaling with either the MAPK kinase (MEK) inhibitor selumetinib or the pan-RAF inhibitor TAK-632 showed synergistic activity with either bortezomib or carfilzomib that was more consistent in cell lines harboring CA mutants as opposed to the DN or WT constructs. Combination regimens of selumetinib or TAK-632 with either bortezomib or carfilzomib induced greater inhibition of the proteasome chymotrypsin-, trypsin- and caspase-like activities than the PIs as single agents. Finally, CA KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF mutants reduced expression levels of genes and proteins involved in the unfolded protein response (UPR), including Activating transcription factor (ATF)-4, -5, and -6, as well as C/EBP homologous protein transcription factor (CHOP) and the spliced variant of X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1s). In contrast, their dominant negative counterparts enhanced expression of the UPR effectors, consistent with an increase in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress.
Taken together, the data support the hypothesis that activating MAPK pathway mutations enhance PI resistance by increasing proteasome capacity, and provide a rationale for targeting such patients with PI/RAF or PI/MEK inhibitor combinations. Moreover, they argue that these mutations promote plasma cell survival by reducing cellular stress, thereby distancing myeloma cells from the apoptotic threshold, potentially explaining their high frequency in myeloma.
Lee:Celgene: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Adaptive Biotechnologies Corporation: Consultancy; Amgen: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Chugai Biopharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Takeda Oncology: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Kite Pharma: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Dick:Takeda Oncology: Employment, Equity Ownership. Chattopadhyay:Takeda Oncology: Employment. Orlowski:Janssen Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Genentech: Consultancy; BioTheryX, Inc: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Millenium Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy, Research Funding; Bristol Myers Squibb: Consultancy; Celgene: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Poseida: Research Funding; Amgen: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Research Funding.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.