The protein encoded by this gene is a member of the STAT protein family. In response to cytokines and growth factors, STAT family members are phosphorylated by receptor-associated kinases and then form homo- or heterodimers that translocate to the cell nucleus, where they act as transcription activators. This protein is activated through phosphorylation of tyrosine 705, in response to various cytokines and growth factors including interferons, epidermal growth factor (EGF), Interleukin (IL-)5, IL-6, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2), IL-10, and also the hormone leptin. STAT3 mediates the expression of a variety of genes in response to cell stimuli, and thus plays a key role in many cellular processes such as cell growth and apoptosis. The small GTPase Rac1 has been shown to bind and regulate the activity of this protein. PIAS3 protein is a specific inhibitor of this protein. Three alternatively spliced transcript variants encoding distinct isoforms have been described.
STAT3-deficient mouse embryos cannot develop beyond embryonic day 7, when gastrulation begins. It appears that at these early stages of development, STAT3 activation is required for self-renewal of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Indeed, LIF, which is supplied to murine ESC cultures to maintain their undifferentiated state, can be omitted if STAT3 is activated through some other means.
STAT3 is essential for the differentiation of the TH17 helper T cells, which have been implicated in a variety of autoimmune diseases.
STAT3 can promote oncogenesis by being constitutively active through various pathways as mentioned elsewhere. Very recently a tumor suppressor role of STAT3 has also been reported. In the report on human glioblastoma tumor, or brain cancer, STAT3 was shown to have an oncogenic or a tumor suppressor role depending upon the mutational background of the tumor. A direct connection between the PTEN-Akt-FOXO axis (suppressive) and the leukemia inhibitory factor receptor beta (LIFRbeta)-STAT3 signaling pathway (oncogenic) was shown. In addition, two recent studies performed in APC mutant mice showed that STAT3 has an inhibiting role in colon carcinogenesis depending on tumor stage.
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