Targeting PYK2 mediates microenvironment- specific cell death in multiple myeloma

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Multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable malignancy due, in part, to the influence of the bone marrow microenvironment on survival and drug response. Identification of microenvironment-specific survival signaling determinants is critical for the rational design of therapy and elimination of MM. Previously, we have shown that collaborative signaling between β1 integrin-mediated adhesion to fibronectin and interleukin-6 confers a more malignant phenotype via amplification of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) activation. Further characterization of the events modulated under these conditions with quantitative phosphotyrosine profiling identified 193 differentially phosphorylated peptides. Seventy-seven phosphorylations were upregulated upon adhesion, including PYK2/FAK2, Paxillin, CASL and p130CAS consistent with focal adhesion (FA) formation. We hypothesized that the collaborative signaling between β1 integrin and gp130 (IL-6 beta receptor, IL-6 signal transducer) was mediated by FA formation and proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2 (PYK2) activity. Both pharmacological and molecular targeting of PYK2 attenuated the amplification of STAT3 phosphorylation under co-stimulatory conditions. Co-culture of MM cells with patient bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) showed similar β1 integrin-specific enhancement of PYK2 and STAT3 signaling. Molecular and pharmacological targeting of PYK2 specifically induced cell death and reduced clonogenic growth in BMSC-adherent myeloma cell lines, aldehyde dehydrogenase-positive MM cancer stem cells and patient specimens. Finally, PYK2 inhibition similarly attenuated MM progression in vivo. These data identify a novel PYK2-mediated survival pathway in MM cells and MM cancer stem cells within the context of microenvironmental cues, providing preclinical support for the use of the clinical stage FAK/PYK2 inhibitors for treatment of MM, especially in a minimal residual disease setting.