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 MM plasma cells (PCs) has been elucidated, its extracellular role in maintaining a nonsupportive cancer microenvironment has not been fully explored. Here, we show that miR-16 is abundantly released by MM cells through extracellular vesicles (EVs) and that differences in its intracellular expression as associated with chromosome 13 deletion (Del13) are correlated to extracellular miR-16 levels. We also demonstrate that EVs isolated from MM patients and from the conditioned media of MM-PCs carrying Del13 more strongly differentiate circulating monocytes to M2-Tumor supportive macrophages (TAMs), compared with MM-PCs without this chromosomal aberration. Mechanistically, our data show that miR-16 directly targets the IKKα/β complex of the NF-B canonical pathway, which is critical not only in supporting MM cell growth, but also in polarizing macrophages toward an M2 phenotype. By using a miR-15a-16-1-KO mouse model, we found 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.
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