Inducible STAT3 NH2 terminal mono-ubiquitination promotes BRD4 complex formation to regulate apoptosis

Sutapa Ray, Yingxin Zhao, Mohammad Jamaluddin, Chukwudi B. Edeh, Chang Lee, Allan R. Brasier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Signal Transducers and Activator of Transcription-3 (STAT3) are latent transcription factors that are regulated by post-translational modifications (PTMs) in response to cellular activation by the IL-6 superfamily of cytokines to regulate cell cycle progression and/or apoptosis. Here we observe that STAT3 is inducibly mono-ubiquitinated and investigate its consequences. Using domain mapping and highly specific selected reaction monitoring-mass spectrometric assays, we identify lysine (K) 97 in its NH2-terminal domain as the major mono-ubiquitin conjugation site. We constructed a mono-ubiquitinated mimic consisting of a deubiquitinase-resistant monomeric ubiquitin fused to the NH2 terminus of STAT3 (ubiquitinated-STAT3 FP). In complex assays of ectopically expressed ubi-STAT3-FP, we observed enhanced complex formation with bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4), a component of the activated positive transcriptional elongation factor (P-TEFb) complex. Chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments in STAT3+/- and STAT3-/- MEFs showed BRD4 recruitment to STAT3-dependent suppressor of cytokine signaling-3 gene (SOCS3). The effect of a selective small molecule inhibitor of BRD4, JQ1, to inhibit SOCS3 expression demonstrated the functional role of BRD4 for STAT3-dependent transcription. Additionally, ectopic ubiquitinated-STAT3 FP expression upregulated BCL2, BCL2L1, APEX1, SOD2, CCND1 and MYC expression indicating the role of ubiquitinated STAT3 in anti-apoptosis and cellular proliferation. Finally we observed that ubiquitinated-STAT3 FP suppressed TNFα-induced apoptotic cell death, indicating the functional importance of mono-ubiquitinated STAT3 in antiapoptotic gene expression. We conclude that STAT3 mono-ubiquitination is a key trigger in BRD4-dependent antiapoptotic and pro-proliferative gene expression programs. Thus, inhibiting the STAT3 mono-ubiquitination-BRD4 pathway may be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of STAT3-dependent proliferative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1445-1455
Number of pages11
JournalCellular Signalling
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Apoptosis
  • BRD4
  • Mono-ubiquitination
  • Proliferation
  • STAT3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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