Previous studies show that human myeloma-derived cell lines specifically adhere to fibronectin (FN) through very late antigen-4 (VLA-4; alpha 4 beta 1 integrin complex) and RGD-peptide mechanisms, which may contribute to the localization of tumor cells in bone marrow (BM). In these studies, we characterized the adhesion of myeloma- derived cell lines to both normal and myeloma BM stromal cells (BMSCs) and the effect of adhesion on DNA synthesis. Because interleukin-6 (IL- 6) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma, we also examined the effects of tumor cell adhesion on IL-6 secretion by BMSCs. In 51chromium binding assays, the U266, ARH-77, and IM-9 cell lines showed 52% +/- 12%, 55% +/- 6%, and 47% +/- 7% specific adherence, respectively, to normal BMSCs and 74% +/- 4%, 60% +/- 3%, and 61% +/- 6% specific adherence, respectively, to myeloma BMSCs. In contrast, only 12% to 13% specific binding of HS-Sultan cells to BMSCs was noted. The binding of myeloma cells to BMSCs was partially blocked with anti-beta 1 monoclonal antibody (MoAb), anti-beta 2 integrin MoAb, and excess RGD peptide, suggesting multiple mechanisms for the adhesion of myeloma cell lines to BMSCs. Binding of cell lines to FN or myeloma BMSCs did not affect cell line proliferation; however, adhesion of myeloma cell lines to normal BMSCs decreased DNA synthesis, ie, stimulation indices are 0.1 +/- 0.04, 0.2 +/- 0.1, 0.2 +/- 0.07, and 0.1 +/- 0.06 for the adherent non-IL-6-dependent U266, ARH-77, HS- Sultan, and IM-9 cells, respectively (n = 5, P < .01). In contrast, adherence of IL-6-dependent B9 cells increased their proliferation (stimulation index, 3.2 +/- 0.7). Significant (twofold to eightfold) increases in IL-6 secretion were evident in cell line-adherent (> or = 12 hours) normal and myeloma BMSC cultures. Paraformaldehyde fixation of BMSCs before adhesion completely abrogated IL-6 secretion, suggesting that IL-6 secretion was triggered in BMSCs rather than in cell lines. Partial blocking of cell line adhesion to BMSCs, using anti- beta 1 integrin and anti-beta 2 integrin MoAbs and RGD peptide, also partially blocked the triggering of IL-6 secretion by BMSCs. When cell lines were placed in Transwell inserts and then cultured with either normal or myeloma BMSCs, permitting juxtaposition without cell to cell contact between myeloma cell lines and BMSCs, no increase in IL-6 secretion was observed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)