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875 Mitochondrial Fitness and Immune Function of Natural Killer Cells Are Impaired By the Multiple Myeloma (MM) Tumor Cells: The Role of MM Microenvironment Interactions

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Type: Oral
Session: 651. Multiple Myeloma and Plasma Cell Dyscrasias: Basic and Translational: Multiple Myleoma Circulating Tumor Cells, Novel Mechanisms, and Immune Interactions
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Translational Research, Plasma Cell Disorders, Diseases, immune mechanism, immunology, Lymphoid Malignancies, metabolism, Biological Processes
Monday, December 11, 2023: 3:45 PM

Katia Beider1*, Ilana Kalnitsky1*, Nira Varda-Bloom, PhD1*, Olga Ostrovsky, PhD1*, Avichai Shimoni, MD1*, Hila Magen, MD1* and Arnon Nagler, MD2

1Tel-Hashomer, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan, Israel
2Division of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel

The immune system including Natural Killer (NK) activity was shown to be impaired in active MM. We and others have previously demonstrated the important role of the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment in MM pathophysiology, however, data on its effects on NK activity in MM is limited.

We first assessed the phenotype of the BM-derived NK cells. BM-NK from MM pts (n=10) showed an exhausted phenotypic signature with significantly reduced expression of CD16 (p<0.01), and increased expression of exhaustion markers CD39 (p<0.001) and CD57 (p<0.001) compared to BM-NK cells from healthy controls (n=8). Furthermore, MM-BM NK cells demonstrated reduced mitochondrial membrane potential, suggesting impaired mitochondrial fitness. The dysfunction of the mitochondria led to deficiency of ATP synthesis; mitochondrial ATP levels were reduced in NK cells from MM BM samples in comparison to the normal BMs (p<0.001). Next, the functional response of BM NK cells to the stimulation with IL-2 (2000 IU/ml for 7 and 14 days) was evaluated in vitro. NK cells from MM BM demonstrated reduced proliferation capacity, increased CD39, reduced expression of activating receptors NKp44 and NKp30, and reduced mitochondrial membrane potential upon the activation with IL-2. The impaired mitochondrial fitness correlated with reduced levels of NKp44, indicating a potential link between the decreased mitochondrial activity and the reduced functionality of NK cells. Indeed, in vitro, the cytotoxic activity of IL-2-stimulated MM-BM NK cells against MM cell lines was significantly diminished compared to healthy IL-2-activated BM-NK cells. Glucose and fatty acids (FA) are key substrates of the mitochondrial bioenergetic pathways and essential for NK cell activation. Of note, glucose uptake was increased comparably upon IL-2 stimulation in NK cells from both MM patients and healthy donors. In contrast, MM-BM NK cells demonstrated reduced FA uptake in response to IL-2 stimulation compared to BM NK cells from healthy donors. These data indicate impaired mitochondrial and NK cell properties in the BM MM niche.

Next, we established an in vitro model to interrogate the relationship between NK cell mitochondrial and immune dysfunction within the MM BM microenvironment. Specifically, we cultured MM cell lines (n=5) with the NK92 cell line or primary IL-2-activated or not activated blood-derived NK cells, and assessed NK cell mitochondrial fitness, metabolic activity, and immune functional properties. Co-culture with MM cells significantly impaired mitochondrial mass and mitochondrial membrane potential in NK cells, decreased mitochondrial ATP levels, while upregulating MM mitochondrial ROS in NK cells, indicating that MM cells induce mitochondrial damage and impair ATP synthesis in NK cells.

Mitochondrial fitness and energy production are pivotal for NK cell persistence and cytotoxicity. In accordance, direct interaction with MM cells suppressed NK cell proliferation in vitro, inducing G0/G1 cell cycle arrest. Moreover, MM-induced mitochondrial impairment in NK cells correlated with reduced responsiveness of MM cells to NK-induced killing, while short-term exposure to MM cells significantly diminished the anti-myeloma cytotoxic activity of NK cells. Accordingly, CD39 expression was upregulated, while NKp44 levels significantly decreased in NK cells upon interaction with MM cells.

To further characterize the molecular mechanisms associated with MM-mediated NK cell mitochondrial impairment, we assessed the gene expression profile of MM-exposed sorted NK92 cells versus unexposed cells. A distinct metabolic signature characterized by reduced expression of genes involved in the mitochondrial activity was detected in MM-exposed NK cells. Thus, genes involved in respiratory activity and mitochondrial dynamics were downregulated post-MM exposure. Furthermore, a profound increase in fructose-1,6-biphosphatase 1 (FBP1) expression was detected in MM-exposed NK cells. FBP1 is the rate-limiting enzyme for gluconeogenesis that simultaneously inhibits glycolysis, possibly interfering with NK cell metabolic activity and immune function.

Altogether, our data suggest that MM BM microenvironment and direct interactions with malignant plasma cells impair NK mitochondrial fitness, diminishing energy production, increasing oxidative stress, and driving exhaustion with reduced anti-tumor capacity in NK cells.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

*signifies non-member of ASH