Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play a crucial role in growth regulation by assembling signaling complexes and presenting growth factors to their cognate receptors. Within the immune system, expression of the HSPG syndecan-1 (CD138) is characteristic of terminally differentiated B cells, ie, plasma cells, and their malignant counterpart, multiple myeloma (MM). This study explored the hypothesis that syndecan-1 might promote growth factor signaling and tumor growth in MM. For this purpose, the interaction was studied between syndecan-1 and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a putative paracrine and autocrine regulator of MM growth. The study demonstrates that syndecan-1 is capable of binding HGF and that this growth factor is indeed a potent stimulator of MM survival and proliferation. Importantly, the interaction of HGF with heparan sulfate moieties on syndecan-1 strongly promotes HGF-mediated signaling, resulting in enhanced activation of Met, the receptor tyrosine kinase for HGF. Moreover, HGF binding to syndecan-1 promotes activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B and RAS/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, signaling routes that have been implicated in the regulation of cell survival and proliferation, respectively. These results identify syndecan-1 as a functional coreceptor for HGF that promotes HGF/Met signaling in MM cells, thus suggesting a novel function for syndecan-1 in MM tumorigenesis.
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