Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappa B) is an important transcription factor that regulates survival in many cells. Activated NF-kappa B has been shown to protect some haematopoietic neoplastic cells from apoptosis. In the present study, we analysed NF-kappa B status in 13 primary samples from patients with multiple myeloma (MM) and in four myeloma cell lines including U266, RPMI 8226, HS-Sultan and K620. Constitutive activation of NF-kappa B was evaluated by either immunohistochemistry or immunofluorescence using a monoclonal mouse anti-human p65 (Rel A) antibody, which recognizes the unbound, active form of p65 (Rel A). Constitutively active NF-kappa B was present in all MM patient samples as well as in all four myeloma cell lines. Inhibition of constitutively active NF-kappa B, by either proteasome inhibitors (MG132, gliotoxin) or inhibitors of I kappa B phosphorylation (Bay117082, and Bay117085), induced apoptosis as demonstrated by both flow cytometric analysis and light microscopic morphological evaluation. This chemically induced apoptosis was associated with decreased DNA binding of nuclear NF-kappa B as determined by the electrophoretic mobility shift assay. In addition, adenovirus vector with dominant negative I kappa B alpha (Ad5I kappa B) was used for inhibition of NF-kappa B in the U266 cell line. Compared with wild-type, super-repressor-treated cells showed an increased level of apoptosis. These results suggest that constitutive expression of NF-kappa B plays an important role in plasma cell survival in MM.