Background: Astrocytomas are the most common type of primary central nervous system tumors. They are frequently associated with genetic mutations that deregulate cell cycle and render these tumors resistant to apoptosis. STAT3, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3, participates in several human cancers by inducing cell proliferation and inhibiting apoptosis and is frequently activated in astrocytomas.
Methods: RNA interference was used to knockdown STAT3 expression in human astrocytes and astrocytoma cell lines. The effect of STAT3 knockdown on apoptosis, cell proliferation, and gene expression was then assessed by standard methods.
Results: We have found that STAT3 is constitutively activated in several human astrocytoma cell lines. Knockdown of STAT3 expression by siRNA induces morphologic and biochemical changes consistent with apoptosis in several astrocytoma cell lines, but not in primary human astrocytes. Moreover, STAT3 is required for the expression of the antiapoptotic genes survivin and Bcl-xL in the A172 glioblastoma cell line.
Conclusion: These results show that STAT3 is required for the survival of some astrocytomas. These studies suggest STAT3 siRNA could be a useful therapeutic agent for the treatment of astrocytomas.