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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 11;8(11):e78728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078728. eCollection 2013.

NF-κB-induced IL-6 ensures STAT3 activation and tumor aggressiveness in glioblastoma.

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Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most aggressive, neurologically destructive and deadly tumor of the central nervous system (CNS). In GBM, the transcription factors NF-κB and STAT3 are aberrantly activated and associated with tumor cell proliferation, survival, invasion and chemoresistance. In addition, common activators of NF-κB and STAT3, including TNF-α and IL-6, respectively, are abundantly expressed in GBM tumors. Herein, we sought to elucidate the signaling crosstalk that occurs between the NF-κB and STAT3 pathways in GBM tumors. Using cultured GBM cell lines as well as primary human GBM xenografts, we elucidated the signaling crosstalk between the NF-κB and STAT3 pathways utilizing approaches that either a) reduce NF-κB p65 expression, b) inhibit NF-κB activation, c) interfere with IL-6 signaling, or d) inhibit STAT3 activation. Using the clinically relevant human GBM xenograft model, we assessed the efficacy of inhibiting NF-κB and/or STAT3 alone or in combination in mice bearing intracranial xenograft tumors in vivo. We demonstrate that TNF-α-induced activation of NF-κB is sufficient to induce IL-6 expression, activate STAT3, and elevate STAT3 target gene expression in GBM cell lines and human GBM xenografts in vitro. Moreover, the combined inhibition of NF-κB and STAT3 signaling significantly increases survival of mice bearing intracranial tumors. We propose that in GBM, the activation of NF-κB ensures subsequent STAT3 activation through the expression of IL-6. These data verify that pharmacological interventions to effectively inhibit the activity of both NF-κB and STAT3 transcription factors must be used in order to reduce glioma size and aggressiveness.

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