BACKGROUND: Steroid hormone receptors (SHRs) are members of the superfamily of ligand-activated transcription factors that regulate many biological processes. Co-regulators act as bridging molecules between the SHR and general transcription factors to enhance transactivation of target genes. Previous studies demonstrated that Stat3 is constitutively activated in prostate cancer and can enhance prostate specific antigen (PSA) expression and promote androgen independent growth. In this study, we investigate whether Stat3 can enhance steroid hormone receptors activation. METHODS: CV-1 cells in which plasmids expressing androgen receptor (AR), glucocorticoid receptor (GR), progesterone receptor (PR) or estrogen receptor (ER) were cotransfected with a constitutively active STAT3 mutant. RESULTS: Stat3 stimulates the transcriptional activity of all four SHR tested, AR, GR, PR and ER, in a hormone-dependent manner. Stat3 acts in a synergistic fashion with other coactivators such as SRC-1, pCAF, CBP, and TIF-2 on the transcriptional activity of these SHR. In addition, Stat3 significantly enhanced the sensitivity of androgen receptor in response to androgen. STAT3 did not affect the specificity of AR for other steroid hormones other than androgen or binding of AR to other hormone responsive elements. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that Stat3 can enhance the transactivation of AR, GR, PR and ER, and activated Stat3 could have a role in the development or progression of a hypersensitive AR.