Cucurbitacin I inhibits STAT3, but enhances STAT1 signaling in human cancer cells in vitro through disrupting actin filaments

Hui GUO1,2, Shan KUANG1,2, Qiao-ling SONG1,2, Man LIU1,2, Xiao-xiao SUN1,2, Qiang YU1,2
1 Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 201203, China
2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Correspondence to: Qiang YU:,
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2017.99
Received: 17 June 2017
Accepted: 9 July 2017
Advance online: 9 November 2017


STAT1 and STAT3 are two important members of the STAT (signal transducers and activators of transcription) protein family and play opposing roles in regulating cancer cell growth. Suppressing STAT3 and/or enhancing STAT1 signaling are considered to be attractive anticancer strategies. Cucurbitacin I (CuI) isolated from the cucurbitacin family was reported to be an inhibitor of STAT3 signaling and a disruptor of actin cytoskeleton. In this study we investigated the function and mechanisms of CuI in regulating STAT signaling in human cancer cells in vitro. CuI (0.1–10 mmol/L) dose-dependently inhibited the phosphorylation of STAT3, and enhanced the phosphorylation of STAT1 in lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells possibly through disrupting actin filaments. We further demonstrated that actin filaments physically associated with JAK2 and STAT3 in A549 cells and regulated their phosphorylation through two signaling complexes, the IL-6 receptor complex and the focal adhesion complex. Actin filaments also interacted with STAT1 in A549 cells and regulated its dephosphorylation. Taken together, this study reveals the molecular mechanisms of CuI in the regulation of STAT signaling and in a possible inhibition of human cancer cell growth. More importantly, this study uncovers a novel role of actin and actin-associated signaling complexes in regulating STAT signaling.
Keywords: cucurbitacin I; cancer cells; STAT1; STAT3; actin; phosphorylation

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