Honokiol (HNK) is an active component purified from magnolia, a plant used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. Here we show that HNK significantly induces cytotoxicity in human multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines and tumor cells from patients with relapsed refractory MM. Neither coculture with bone marrow stromal cells nor cytokines (interleukin-6 and insulin-like growth factor-1) protect against HNK-induced cytotoxicity. Although activation of caspases 3, 7, 8, and 9 is triggered by HNK, the pan-caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk does not abrogate HNK-induced apoptosis. Importantly, release of an executioner of caspase-independent apoptosis, apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), from mitochondria is induced by HNK treatment. HNK induces apoptosis in the SU-DHL4 cell line, which has low levels of caspase 3 and 8 associated with resistance to both conventional and novel drugs. These results suggest that HNK induces apoptosis via both caspase-dependent and -independent pathways. Furthermore, HNK enhances MM cell cytotoxicity and apoptosis induced by bortezomib. In addition to its direct cytotoxicity to MM cells, HNK also represses tube formation by endothelial cells, suggesting that HNK inhibits neovascurization in the bone marrow microenvironment. Taken together, our results provide the preclinical rationale for clinical protocols of HNK to improve patient outcome in MM.
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