Originating from a post-switch memory B cell or plasma cell compartment in peripheral lymphoid tissues, malignant myeloma cells accumulate in the bone marrow of patients with multiple myeloma. In this favorable microenvironment their growth and survival are dependent upon both soluble factors and physical cell-to-cell and cell-to-extracellular matrix contacts. In this report we show that hyaluronan (HA), a major nonprotein glycosaminoglycan component of the extracellular matrix in mammalian bone marrow, is a survival and proliferation factor for human myeloma cells. The effect of HA is mainly mediated through a gp 80-interleukin 6 (IL-6) receptor pathway by a CD44-independent mechanism, suggesting that HA retains and concentrates IL-6 close to its site of secretion, thus favoring its autocrine activity. In addition, we show that HA-mediated survival and proliferation of myeloma cells is associated with a down-regulation in the expression of p27(kip1) cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor and a hyperphosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (pRb). These data suggest that HA could be an important component in the myeloma cell physiopathology in vivo by potentiating autocrine and/or paracrine IL-6 activities.