Pathogen-associated molecular patterns are growth and survival factors for human myeloma cells through Toll-like receptors

Leukemia. 2006 Jun;20(6):1130-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2404226.


Multiple myeloma (MM) patients are strongly vulnerable to infections, which remain a major cause of death. During infection, human immune cells sense the presence of invading pathogens through the Toll-like receptor family (TLR), which recognizes pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMP). We hypothesized that MM cells also could sense the presence of microorganisms, thus promoting myeloma disease progression. Here, we report that human myeloma cell lines (HMCL) and primary myeloma cells express a broad range of TLR, and are sensitive to the corresponding PAMP. Toll-like receptor 1, 7 and 9 are most frequently expressed by HMCL. The expression pattern of TLR does not correlate with the one of B cells, as TLR2 and 10 are lost while TLR3, 4 and 8 are acquired by some HMCL. Culture with TLR7- and TLR9-ligands saves HMCL from serum-deprivation or dexamethasone-induced apoptosis. Similarly, both ligands increase myeloma cell growth. These effects are mediated by an autocrine secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6) since the neutralization of IL-6 blocks the growth and survival of HMCL. Thus, TLR expression and function are not restricted to the cells of the immune system and could be of advantage for cancer cells. In MM, recurrent infections could promote tumor growth and favor escape from standard therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens / immunology
  • Antigens / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Autocrine Communication / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / immunology
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Guanosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Guanosine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / pharmacology
  • Ligands
  • Multiple Myeloma / genetics
  • Multiple Myeloma / immunology*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / pharmacology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Toll-Like Receptors / drug effects
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Antigens
  • CPG-oligonucleotide
  • Interleukin-6
  • Ligands
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Guanosine
  • Dexamethasone
  • loxoribine