These studies explore the molecular effect of arsenicals on MM cells. Freshly isolated cells derived from patients with advanced, chemo-refractory myeloma as well as human myeloma cell lines, ARP-1, RPMI-8226 and H929 were exposed to the organic arsenical melarsoprol and to the inorganic compound AT. Both agents potently induced apoptosis in myeloma cells. Exposure to 1-5 microM AT or melarsoprol for 6 hours suppressed NF-kappa B DNA binding and enhanced of c-Jun kinase (JNK) activity. Arsenic also activated caspase-3 resulting in the cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and Fas/TNF alpha related receptor interacting protein (RIP). In contrast to reported observations in acute promyelocytic leukemia, myeloma cell apoptosis was not associated with either the downregulation of Bcl-2 protein or with alterations in the expression of other Bcl-2 family members, Bax, Bak, Bag, and Bcl-xl. This study first shows that arsenic induces apoptotic signaling in MM through the cleavage of TNF alpha related receptor interacting protein (RIP). RIP is a key downstream protein in FasL/ TNF alpha /TRAIL induced apoptosis and a major antiapoptotic adaptor of pathways through NF-kappa B and JNK. RIP has not been previously characterized in myeloma. This study supports the hypothesis that arsenicals share common mediators (RIP, NF-kappa B, PARP, caspase-3) with death receptor induced apoptosis. These studies provide an important insight into the molecular mechanism of AT induced apoptosis and can be used in the development of adjuvant therapy for MM, presently an incurable disease.