Uncontrolled immunoglobulin (Ig) secretion by malignant cells is a characteristic feature of lymphoplasmacytic malignancies and associates with significant morbidity. IL6 has been shown to promote Ig secretion by malignant B cells, however, the mechanisms mediating this cellular event remain elusive. Here, we identified a CCL5 induced pathway that upregulates IL6 secretion in B cell/plasma cell malignancies including Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM). Characterization of this mechanism revealed that activation of the CCL5 pathway increases IL6 expression and promoter activity in stromal cells (HS-5, Saka and primary stromal cells from WM patients). Conversely, stable RNAi knockdown of the CCL5 receptor CCR3 in stromal cells led to significantly reduced IL6 promoter activity and expression. Further analysis using a combination of bioinformatics analysis, genetic analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays (ChIP) identified GLI2 as the mediator of this CCL5-IL6 functional interaction. CCL5 induces GLI2 expression via activation of the PI3K/AKT pathway. Constitutively active PI3K and AKT mutants increase expression of GLI2 through the canonical NFkB pathway. ChIP assay showed p65 binds to the GLI2 promoter and increases GLI2 levels in stromal cells. Dominant negative molecules antagonizing these pathways effectively blocked CCR3 induction of GLI2 expression. Interestingly, this CCL5-induced pathway was independent of the Hedgehog signaling. Blockade of this cascade using pharmacological or genetic tools did not affect CCL5 activation of GLI2 in stromal cells. To validate the biological significance of this newly identified CCL5-GLI2-IL6 signaling axis in the regulation of IgM secretion, we used an in vitro coculture system and an in vivo mouse model. Coculture of primary WM stromal cells, HS-5 or Saka cells with primary WM malignant cells or BCWM.1, an IgM producing cell line, led to a significant increase in IL6 and IgM secretion. Similar results were obtained in vivo using athymic nu/nu mice subcutaneously injected with BCWM.1 and HS-5 cells. We then confirmed the requirement of GLI2 in vitro and in vivo. We infected HS-5 cells with a lentivirus containing shRNA targeting GLI2 or a scramble control and cocultured them with BCWM.1 cells. Knockdown of GLI2 decreased IL6 and IgM secretion in coculture. This was confirmed in vivo by infecting HS-5 cells or primary WMsc with lentivirus targeting GLI2 or scrambled shRNA and coinjecting with BCWM.1 cells into athymic nu/nu mice. Mice injected with cells lacking GLI2 had lower IgM levels in the serum and tumors compared with mice injected with HS-5 cells with an intact GLI2, further supporting the hypothesis that CCL5 requires an intact GLI2 to increase IL6 and consequently IgM. Finally, we confirmed the importance of this phenomenon in other B cell/plasma cell malignancies such as MGUS and MM. Primary stromal cultures from these neoplasms were infected with lentivirus targeting GLI2 or scrambled shRNA and cocultured with BCWM.1 cells. Similar to WM, there was a significant decrease in IL6 and IgM secretion in the absence of GLI2 suggesting the role of this molecule is conserved in other B cell/plasma cell malignancies. In summary, our data identifies a novel role for GLI2, an effector of the Hedgehog signaling pathway, in mediating the interaction between CCL5 and IL6 in the tumor microenvironment that modulates Ig secretion by malignant B cells. Therefore therapies targeting this signaling axis in the tumor microenvironment might provide efficacy in patients with Ig-mediated diseases.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.