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Biochem J. 2012 Oct 1;447(1):125-36. doi: 10.1042/BJ20120941.

Selective STAT3-α or -β expression reveals spliceform-specific phosphorylation kinetics, nuclear retention and distinct gene expression outcomes.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Phosphorylation of STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) is critical for its nuclear import and transcriptional activity. Although a shorter STAT3β spliceform was initially described as a negative regulator of STAT3α, gene knockout studies have revealed that both forms play critical roles. We have expressed STAT3α and STAT3β at comparable levels to facilitate a direct comparison of their functional effects, and have shown their different cytokine-stimulated kinetics of phosphorylation and nuclear translocation. Notably, the sustained nuclear translocation and phosphorylation of STAT3β following cytokine exposure contrasted with a transient nuclear translocation and phosphorylation of STAT3α. Importantly, co-expression of the spliceforms revealed that STAT3β enhanced and prolonged the phosphorylation and nuclear retention of STAT3α, but a STAT3β R609L mutant, with a disrupted SH2 (Src homology 2) domain, was not tyrosine phosphorylated following cytokine stimulation and could not cross-regulate STAT3α. The physiological importance of prolonged phosphorylation and nuclear retention was indicated by transcriptome profiling of STAT3(-/-) cells expressing either STAT3α or STAT3β, revealing the complexity of genes that are up- and down-regulated by the STAT3 spliceforms, including a distinct set of STAT3β-specific genes regulated under basal conditions and after cytokine stimulation. These results highlight STAT3β as a significant transcriptional regulator in its own right, with additional actions to cross-regulate STAT3α phosphorylation and nuclear retention after cytokine stimulation.

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