Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research

The Opposing Function of STAT3 as an Oncoprotein and Tumor Suppressor Is Dictated by the Expression Status of STAT3β in Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

PMID 26405196


STAT3 is known to have both oncogenic and tumor suppressive effects, but the regulation of these opposing effects is elusive. We hypothesized that STAT3β, one of the two STAT3 isoforms, is the key determinant in this context. The prognostic significance of STAT3β and phospho-STAT3α(Y705) (pSTAT3α(Y705)) was evaluated in 286 cases of patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). STAT3β-induced changes in the chemosensitivity to cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil were assessed both in vitro and in vivo. STAT3β-induced changes in the frequency of cancer stem cells were evaluated using Hoechst and CD44 staining. How STAT3β regulates STAT3α was determined using immunoprecipitation, confocal microscopy, DNA-binding, and chromatin immunoprecipitation-PCR. STAT3β expression is an independent protective prognostic marker in patients with ESCC, which strongly correlated with longer overall survival (P = 0.0009) and recurrence-free survival (P = 0.0001). STAT3β significantly decreased the cancer stem cell population, and sensitized ESCC cells to cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil in tumor xenografts. Mechanistically, STAT3β markedly attenuated the transcription activity of STAT3α via inducing STAT3α:STAT3β heterodimers. However, the heterodimer formation decreased the binding between STAT3α and PTPN9 (better known as PTP-MEG2), a protein tyrosine phosphatase, thereby promoting the phosphorylation of STAT3α(Y705) and enhancing its nuclear translocation and DNA binding. Correlating with this, high STAT3β expression converts the prognostic value of pSTAT3α(Y705) from unfavorable to favorable in patients with ESCC. STAT3β suppresses chemoresistance and cancer stemness by blocking the transcriptional activity of STAT3α. The paradoxical increase in pSTAT3α(Y705) induced by STAT3β carries important implications as to how the biologic and prognostic significance of STAT3 in cancers should be interpreted.