Melphalan-induced apoptosis in multiple myeloma cells is associated with a cleavage of Mcl-1 and Bim and a decrease in the Mcl-1/Bim complex

Oncogene. 2005 Dec 1;24(54):8076-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208949.


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a rapidly fatal plasma-cell malignancy that evolves mainly in the bone marrow. Melphalan is widely used to treat patients with MM but as yet its mechanisms of action are poorly documented. In the current study, we demonstrate that melphalan induces a drastic downregulation of Mcl-1L, Bcl-x(L) and BimEL in human melphalan-sensitive myeloma cells while the most potent proapoptotic isoforms, BimL and S, are affected to a lesser extent. Moreover, Mcl-1L and BimEL disappearance is associated with the generation of proapoptotic cleaved forms generated by a caspase cleavage. In myeloma cells, we have previously shown that Mcl-1 neutralizes the proapoptotic function of Bim and therefore, prevents the activation of death effectors. In this study, we demonstrate that melphalan disrupts the Mcl-1/Bim complex whereas the Bcl-2/Bim complex is not modified. The disappearance of full length Mcl-1 allows the release of Bim isoforms, particularly L and S, which can exert their proapoptotic function and leads to Bax activation and cytochrome c release. Thus, we can hypothesize that the cleaved 26 kDa proapoptotic Mcl-1 and the 19 and 12 kDa of Bim, generated during melphalan treatment could contribute to the amplification loop of apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bcl-2-Like Protein 11
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Melphalan / pharmacology*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Multiple Myeloma / drug therapy*
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BCL2L11 protein, human
  • Bcl-2-Like Protein 11
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Melphalan