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A STAT3-decoy oligonucleotide induces cell death in a human colorectal carcinoma cell line by blocking nuclear transfer of STAT3 and STAT3-bound NF-κB

Inès Souissi12, Imen Najjar67, Laurent Ah-Koon12, Pierre Olivier Schischmanoff123, Denis Lesage12, Stéphanie Le Coquil12, Claudine Roger4, Isabelle Dusanter-Fourt67, Nadine Varin-Blank12, An Cao8, Valeri Metelev5, Fanny Baran-Marszak124 and Remi Fagard123*

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM, Unité 978, Bobigny, France

2 Université Paris 13, UFR SMBH, Bobigny, France

3 AP-HP, Hôpital Avicenne, Service de biochimie, Bobigny, France

4 AP-HP, Hôpital Avicenne, Service d'hématologie biologique, Bobigny, France

5 Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

6 Institut Cochin, Université Paris Descartes, CNRS (UMR 8104), Paris, France

7 INSERM, Unité 1016, Paris, France

8 Groupe de Vectorisation, UFR SMBH, Université Paris 13, Bobigny, France

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BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-14

Published: 12 April 2011



The transcription factor STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) is frequently activated in tumor cells. Activated STAT3 forms homodimers, or heterodimers with other TFs such as NF-κB, which becomes activated. Cytoplasmic STAT3 dimers are activated by tyrosine phosphorylation; they interact with importins via a nuclear localization signal (NLS) one of which is located within the DNA-binding domain formed by the dimer. In the nucleus, STAT3 regulates target gene expression by binding a consensus sequence within the promoter. STAT3-specific decoy oligonucleotides (STAT3-decoy ODN) that contain this consensus sequence inhibit the transcriptional activity of STAT3, leading to cell death; however, their mechanism of action is unclear.


The mechanism of action of a STAT3-decoy ODN was analyzed in the colon carcinoma cell line SW 480. These cells' dependence on activated STAT3 was verified by showing that cell death is induced by STAT3-specific siRNAs or Stattic. STAT3-decoy ODN was shown to bind activated STAT3 within the cytoplasm, and to prevent its translocation to the nucleus, as well as that of STAT3-associated NF-κB, but it did not prevent the nuclear transfer of STAT3 with mutations in its DNA-binding domain. The complex formed by STAT3 and the STAT3-decoy ODN did not associate with importin, while STAT3 alone was found to co-immunoprecipitate with importin. Leptomycin B and vanadate both trap STAT3 in the nucleus. They were found here to oppose the cytoplasmic trapping of STAT3 by the STAT3-decoy ODN. Control decoys consisting of either a mutated STAT3-decoy ODN or a NF-κB-specific decoy ODN had no effect on STAT3 nuclear translocation. Finally, blockage of STAT3 nuclear transfer correlated with the induction of SW 480 cell death.


The inhibition of STAT3 by a STAT3-decoy ODN, leading to cell death, involves the entrapment of activated STAT3 dimers in the cytoplasm. A mechanism is suggested whereby this entrapment is due to STAT3-decoy ODN's inhibition of active STAT3/importin interaction. These observations point to the high potential of STAT3-decoy ODN as a reagent and to STAT3 nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling in tumor cells as a potential target for effective anti-cancer compounds.