Doctor of Philosophy
Clinical and Translational Sciences
In recent years, a number of nuclear transcription factors have been shown to be present in the mitochondria where they have distinct roles in regulating mitochondrial function. Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3), classically activated by the JAK family of receptor associated tyrosine kinases to drive nuclear gene expression, is one such transcription factor with a unique mitochondrial role. There, it has been shown to support oxidative phosphorylation, regulate mitochondrial-encoded transcripts, and be key for the transformation and growth of a number of different cancers. Despite its well-characterized functional importance at the level of the mitochondria, the mechanism through which mitochondrial STAT3 acts and how it is regulated has not been as well studied.
Using various cell culture models, we now show that mitochondrial STAT3 is dynamically regulated by oxidative stress and cytokine treatment in the acute setting. Under these conditions we have observed a rapid loss of mitochondrial STAT3 that recovers to baseline conditions with time. During this recovery phase we have noted that mitochondrial STAT3 becomes competent to bind to Cyclophilin D (CypD), the key regulator and activator of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP). This is particularly the case with oxidative insults, which we believe may represent an important homeostatic mechanism for the cell. Intriguingly, chronic stimulation with certain stressors seems to increase mitochondrial STAT3 levels suggesting differential regulation in the acute versus chronic setting.
The regulation of mitochondrial STAT3 levels by various stimuli points to a novel signaling pathway potentially linking mitochondrial responses with those of the cell. Unification of responses throughout the cell would seem to serve a clear adaptive advantage, particularly in coupling nuclear regulation with metabolic demands as dictated by the mitochondria. Extramitochondrial signaling, also known as the mitochondrial retrograde response, has emerged as an important homeostatic mechanism in lower organisms, but its signaling components have not been well characterized at the mammalian level. Our results point to a role for mitochondrial STAT3 in sensing cellular inputs, whereby its regulation and subsequent association with CypD may have implications in overall mitochondrial quality control. Though the inner workings of this signaling cascade are just beginning to be elucidated, they suggest the existence of a previously unappreciated pathway at the mitochondrial level.
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