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Nature communications

Phosphorylation status determines the opposing functions of Smad2/Smad3 as STAT3 cofactors in TH17 differentiation.


PMID 26194464

Abstract

Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) are the pivotal cytokines to induce IL-17-producing CD4(+) T helper cells (TH17); yet their signalling network remains largely unknown. Here we show that the highly homologous TGF-β receptor-regulated Smads (R-Smads): Smad2 and Smad3 oppositely modify STAT3-induced transcription of IL-17A and retinoic acid receptor-related orphan nuclear receptor, RORγt encoded by Rorc, by acting as a co-activator and co-repressor of STAT3, respectively. Smad2 linker phosphorylated by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) at the serine 255 residue interacts with STAT3 and p300 to transactivate, whereas carboxy-terminal unphosphorylated Smad3 interacts with STAT3 and protein inhibitor of activated STAT3 (PIAS3) to repress the Rorc and Il17a genes. Our work uncovers carboxy-terminal phosphorylation-independent noncanonical R-Smad-STAT3 signalling network in TH17 differentiation.