Glucocorticoids are widely used for the treatment of multiple myeloma. To investigate the direct actions of glucocorticoids on myeloma cells, we have used three cell lines of human multiple myeloma, OPM-1, OPM-2, and RPMI 8226. When growth curves of these cells were examined, OPM-1 cells were resistant, while OPM-2 were sensitive to dexamethasone (DEX). In cultures of OPM-2 cells, addition of DEX led to virtual cessation of growth, with only 16% of the residual cells viable after 4 days. RPMI 8226 appeared to be slightly sensitive, showing some slowing of growth for several days in DEX, with later recovery. Viabilities of OPM-1 and RPMI 8226 cells were not affected. Secretion of immunoglobulin (Ig-λ) was also partially suppressed, by 30% in OPM-2 and 14% in OPM-1. No significant suppression was observed in RPMI 8226. To explore the mechanism of these differential responses to the steroid, glucocorticoid receptor (GR) was examined. Binding assays showed high affinity binding sites in all three cell lines: 64 ± 11 fmol/106 cells in OPM-1, 78 ± 14 in OPM-2, and 62 ± 16 in RPMI 8226. Nuclear transfer of GR and DNA-cellulose binding after heat activation appeared similar in all three cell lines. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of cytosol proteins labeled with [3H]dexamethasone mesylate showed a GR of Mr 95,000 in all three. When GR mRNA was studied in these cells, all of them had GR mRNA of approximately 7 kilobases, but OPM-2 and RPMI 8226 had 3 times more GR mRNA than OPM-1. OPM-2 GR mRNA was induced 2-fold by DEX treatment at 5 × 10-9m or greater. OPM-1 GR mRNA was much less sensitive, with no response at less than 10-6m DEX and only 1.5-fold induction at that concentration. These results demonstrate that some myeloma cells can be killed by a direct action of glucocorticoids. The quantity and affinity of GR in the cells were not predictive of this response. Therefore, we propose that the resistance of OPM-1 and the relative resistance of RPMI 8226 to glucocorticoid inhibition of cell growth is by post-receptor mechanisms. The high sensitivity of induction of GR mRNA in OPM-2 may correlate with glucocorticoid-evoked cell kill.


Supported in part by NIH Grant CA41407.

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