Alterations of RAS signalling in Chinese multiple myeloma patients: absent BRAF and rare RAS mutations, but frequent inactivation of RASSF1A by transcriptional silencing or expression of a non-functional variant transcript


Dr Margaret H. L. Ng, Hematology Section, Department of Anatomical & Cellular Pathology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, NT, HK (SAR). E-mail:


Summary.  The methylation status, mutation and expression of RASSF1A, and mutations of RAS and BRAF were studied in 52 patients with multiple myeloma (MM), one plasma cell leukaemia (PCL) patient and four MM-derived cell lines. Aberrant methylation of RASSF1A was found in nine of 32 MM patients and in one of four MM cell lines (U266), where the associated loss of transcription was reversible by demethylation treatment. RASSF1A transcription was further investigated on anti-CD138-sorted plasma cell-enriched bone marrow samples from 10 MM, one PCL and three reactive plasmacytosis patients. While the wild-type RASSF1A transcript was detected in all three reactive plasmacytosis and the PCL samples, we found no detectable wild-type transcripts in six of 10 MM samples studied. In two MM samples, only the non-functional variant transcript was detected, whereas the other four showed loss of transcription. In great contrast to western data, RAS mutations were identified in only four of 31 (13%) MM patients. While no RASSF1A or BRAF mutation (V599E) was detected in any of the primary MM studied (n = 21), the latter was found in the U266 cell line. Taken together, these data indicate that alterations of RAS signalling are critical in MM pathogenesis. In our current studies of Chinese MM patients, these alterations involved frequent RASSF1A inactivation (60%) as a result of transcriptional silencing or expression of a non-functional variant transcript.