Background: Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) plays critical roles in neural development and is increasingly recognized as a major mediator of injury response in the nervous system. Cytokines and growth factors are known to phosphorylate STAT3 at tyrosine(705) with or without the concomitant phosphorylation at serine(727), resulting in the nuclear localization of STAT3 and subsequent transcriptional activation of genes. Recent evidence suggests that STAT3 may control cell function via alternative mechanisms independent of its transcriptional activity. Currently, the involvement of STAT3 mono-phosphorylated at residue serine(727) (P-Ser-STAT3) in neurite outgrowth and the underlying mechanism is largely unknown.
Principal findings: In this study, we investigated the role of nerve growth factor (NGF) induced P-Ser-STAT3 in mediating neurite outgrowth. NGF induced the phosphorylation of residue serine(727) but not tyrosine(705) of STAT3 in PC12 and primary cortical neuronal cells. In PC12 cells, serine but not tyrosine dominant negative mutant of STAT3 was found to impair NGF induced neurite outgrowth. Unexpectedly, NGF induced P-Ser-STAT3 was localized to the mitochondria but not in the nucleus. Mitochondrial STAT3 was further found to be intimately involved in NGF induced neurite outgrowth and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Conclusion: Taken together, the findings herein demonstrated a hitherto unrecognized novel transcription independent mechanism whereby the mitochondria localized P-Ser-STAT3 is involved in NGF induced neurite outgrowth.