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The anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 plays a major role in multiple myeloma (MM) cell survival as well as bortezomib- and microenvironmental forms of drug resistance in this disease. Consequently, there is a critical need for strategies capable of targeting Mcl-1-dependent drug resistance in MM. The present results indicate that a regimen combining Chk1 with MEK1/2 inhibitors effectively kills cells displaying multiple forms of drug resistance stemming from Mcl-1 up-regulation in association with direct transcriptional Mcl-1 down-regulation and indirect disabling of Mcl-1 anti-apoptotic function through Bim up-regulation and increased Bim/Mcl-1 binding. These actions release Bak from Mcl-1, accompanied by Bak/Bax activation. Analogous events were observed in both drug-naïve and acquired bortezomib-resistant MM cells displaying increased Mcl-1 but diminished Bim expression, or cells ectopically expressing Mcl-1. Moreover, concomitant Chk1 and MEK1/2 inhibition blocked Mcl-1 up-regulation induced by IL-6/IGF-1 or co-culture with stromal cells, effectively overcoming microenvironment-related drug resistance. Finally, this regimen down-regulated Mcl-1 and robustly killed primary CD138+MM cells, but not normal hematopoietic cells. Together, these findings provide novel evidence that this targeted combination strategy could be effective in the setting of multiple forms of Mcl-1-related drug resistance in MM.
© 2014 Pei et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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VCU Massey Cancer Center Publications