First published October 8, 2019 - More info
High levels of circulating miR-16 in the serum of multiple myeloma (MM) patients are independently associated with longer survival. Although the tumor suppressor function of intracellular miR-16 in cancer cells, including MM plasma cells (PCs), has been highly elucidated, its extracellular role in maintaining a non-supportive cancer microenvironment has not been fully explored. Here, we show that miR-16 can be actively secreted by MM cells through extracellular vesicles (EVs), and its extracellular and intracellular levels are directly correlated. We also show that EVs isolated from MM patients and from the conditioned media of MM-PCs can differentiate circulating monocytes to M2-tumor supportive macrophages (TAMs) and that the presence of higher levels of extracellular miR-16 counteracts this effect. In agreement with these observations, our data show that miR-16 directly targets the IKKα/β complex of the NF-kB canonical pathway, which is known to play a critical role in polarizing macrophages toward an M2 phenotype. By using a miR-15a-16-1 knockout mouse model, we also show that loss of the miR-16 cluster supports polarization to M2-macrophages. Finally, we demonstrate the therapeutic benefit of miR-16 overexpression in potentiating the anti-MM activity by a proteasome inhibitor in the presence of MM resident bone marrow TAM.