Molecular and cellular biology

Role of Stat3 in regulating p53 expression and function.

PMID 16107692


Loss of p53 function by mutation is common in cancer. However, most natural p53 mutations occur at a late stage in tumor development, and many clinically detectable cancers have reduced p53 expression but no p53 mutations. It remains to be fully determined what mechanisms disable p53 during malignant initiation and in cancers without mutations that directly affect p53. We show here that oncogenic signaling pathways inhibit the p53 gene transcription rate through a mechanism involving Stat3, which binds to the p53 promoter in vitro and in vivo. Site-specific mutation of a Stat3 DNA-binding site in the p53 promoter partially abrogates Stat3-induced inhibition. Stat3 activity also influences p53 response genes and affects UV-induced cell growth arrest in normal cells. Furthermore, blocking Stat3 in cancer cells up-regulates expression of p53, leading to p53-mediated tumor cell apoptosis. As a point of convergence for many oncogenic signaling pathways, Stat3 is constitutively activated at high frequency in a wide diversity of cancers and is a promising molecular target for cancer therapy. Thus, repression of p53 expression by Stat3 is likely to have an important role in development of tumors, and targeting Stat3 represents a novel therapeutic approach for p53 reactivation in many cancers lacking p53 mutations.