Monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) that selectively identify Muc-1 core protein (MoAbs DF3-P, VU-4H5) determinants were used to identify the Muc-1 glycoform present on 7 multiple myeloma (MM) cell lines, 5 MM patient plasma cells, 12 MM patient B cells, as well as 32 non-MM cell lines and normal hematopoietic cells. Flow cytometry studies demonstrated that all MM cell lines, MM patient plasma cells, and MM patient B cells expressed Muc-1 core protein epitopes. Circulating B cells from 4 normal donors also expressed Muc-1 core protein. In contrast, Muc-1 core protein was absent on 28 of 32 non-MM neoplastic cell lines, 17 of which expressed Muc-1. Splenic and tonsillar B cells, CD34(+) stem cells, resting T cells, and bone marrow plasma cells obtained from normal donors both lacked Muc-1 glycoforms. We next studied the effects of estrogen, progesterone, and glucocorticoid receptor agonists and antagonists on Muc-1 expression, because consensus sequences for the response elements of these steroids are present on the Muc-1 gene promoter. These studies showed that dexamethasone (Dex) induced Muc-1 expression on MM cell lines, as determined by both flow cytometry and Western blot analyses. Dex also induced upregulation of Muc-1 on prostate and ovarian cancer cell lines. Time and dose-response studies demonstrated that Dex induced maximal cell surface Muc-1 expression by 24 hours at concentrations of 10(-8) mol/L. Dex induced Muc-1 upregulation could be blocked with a 10-fold excess of the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU486, confirming that Dex was acting via the glucocorticoid receptor. No changes in Muc-1 expression were observed on MM cells treated with estrogen and progesterone receptor agonists and antagonists or with RU486. These studies provide the framework for targeting Muc-1 core protein in vaccination and serotherapy trials in MM. In addition, the finding that Muc-1 expression on MM cells can be augmented by Dex at pharmacologically achievable levels suggests their potential utility in enhancing treatments targeting Muc-1 in MM.