Interleukin-6 (IL-6) mediates autocrine and paracrine growth of multiple myeloma (MM) cells and inhibits tumor cell apoptosis. Abnormalities of retinoblastoma protein (pRB) and mutations of RB gene have been reported in up to 70% of MM patients and 80% of MM-derived cell lines. Because dephosphorylated (activated) pRB blocks transition from G1 to S phase of the cell cycle whereas phosphorylated (inactivated) pRB releases this growth arrest, we characterized the role of pRB in IL-6-mediated MM cell growth. Both phosphorylated and dephosphorylated pRB were expressed in all serum-starved MM patient cells and MM-derived cell lines, but pRB was predominantly in its phosphorylated form. In MM cells that proliferated in response to IL-6, exogenous IL-6 downregulated dephosphorylated pRB and decreased dephosphorylated pRB-E2F complexes. Importantly, culture of MM cells with RB antisense, but not RB sense, oligonucleotide (ODN) triggered IL- 6 secretion and proliferation in MM cells; however, proliferation was only partially inhibited by neutralizing anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody (MoAb). In contrast to MM cells, normal splenic B cells express dephosphorylated pRB. Although CD40 ligand (CD40L) triggers a shift from dephosphorylated to phosphorylated pRB and proliferation of B cells, the addition of exogenous IL-6 to CD40L-treated B cells does not alter either pRB or proliferation, as observed in MM cells. These results suggest that phosphorylated pRB is constitutively expressed in MM cells and that IL-6 further shifts pRB from its dephosphorylated to its phosphorylated form, thereby promoting MM cell growth via two mechanisms; by decreasing the amount of E2F bound by dephosphorylated pRB due to reduced dephosphorylated pRB, thereby releasing growth arrest; and by upregulating IL-6 secretion by MM cells and related IL-6- mediated autocrine tumor cell growth.

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