Illegitimate WNT signaling promotes proliferation of multiple myeloma cells

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 20;101(16):6122-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0305855101. Epub 2004 Apr 5.


The unrestrained growth of tumor cells is generally attributed to mutations in essential growth control genes, but tumor cells are also influenced by signals from the environment. In multiple myeloma (MM), the factors and signals coming from the bone marrow microenvironment are possibly even essential for the growth of the tumor cells. As targets for intervention, these signals may be equally important as mutated oncogenes. Given their oncogenic potential, WNT signals form a class of paracrine growth factors that could act to influence MM cell growth. In this paper, we report that MM cells have hallmarks of active WNT signaling, whereas the cells have not undergone detectable mutations in WNT signaling genes such as adenomatous polyposis coli and beta-catenin (CTNNB1). We show that the malignant MM plasma cells overexpress beta-catenin, including its N-terminally unphosphorylated form, suggesting active beta-catenin/T cell factor-mediated transcription. Further accumulation and nuclear localization of beta-catenin, and/or increased cell proliferation, was achieved by stimulation of WNT signaling with either Wnt3a, LiCl, or the constitutively active S33Y mutant of beta-catenin. In contrast, by blocking WNT signaling by dominant-negative T cell factor, we can interfere with the growth of MM cells. We therefore suggest that MM cells are dependent on an active WNT signal, which may have important implications for the management of this incurable form of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Multiple Myeloma / metabolism*
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction* / physiology*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins*
  • beta Catenin


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • beta Catenin