STAT3 protein promotes T-cell survival and inhibits interleukin-2 production through up-regulation of Class O Forkhead transcription factors.
ABSTRACT Much is known about the role of STAT3 in regulating differentiation of interleukin-17-producing Th17 cells, but its function in other lymphocyte subsets is not well understood. In this report, we reveal wide-ranging functions of STAT3 in T-cells and provide evidence that STAT3 is convergence point for mechanisms that regulate lymphocyte quiescence and those controlling T-cell activation and survival. We show here that STAT3 inhibits T-lymphocyte proliferation by up-regulating the expression of Class-O Forkhead transcription factors, which play essential roles in maintaining T-cells in quiescent state. We further show that STAT3 binds directly to FoxO1 or FoxO3a promoter and that STAT3-deficiency resulted in down-regulation of the expression of FoxO1, FoxO3a and FoxO-target genes (IκB and p27Kip1). Compared with wild-type T-cells, STAT3-deficient T-cells produced more IL-2, due in part, to marked decrease in IκB-mediated sequestration of NF-κB in the cytoplasm and resultant enhancement of NF-κB activation. However, the high level of IL-2 production by STAT3-deficient T-cells was partially restored to normal levels by overexpressing FoxO1. It is notable that their exaggerated increase in IL-2 production rendered STAT3-deficient lymphocytes more susceptible to activation-induced cell death, suggesting that STAT3 might protect T-cells from apoptosis by limiting their production of IL-2 through up-regulation of FoxO1/FoxO3a expression. Moreover, we found that STAT3 enhanced survival of activated T-cells by up-regulating OX-40 and Bcl-2 while down-regulating FasL and Bad expression, suggesting that similar to role of FoxOs in regulating the lifespan of worms, STAT3 and FoxO pathways converge to regulate lifespan of T-lymphocytes.