Keloids are a fibrotic skin disorder caused by abnormal wound healing and featuring the activation and expansion of fibroblasts beyond the original wound margin. Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has been found to mediate the biological functions of keloid fibroblasts (KFs). Therefore, we aimed to demonstrate whether ASC-J9, an inhibitor of STAT3 phosphorylation, can suppress the activation of KFs. Western blotting results showed that ASC-J9 inhibited the levels of COL1A1 and FN1 proteins, which were upregulated in KFs, by decreasing the expression of pSTAT3 and STAT3. RNA sequencing and in vitro studies further demonstrated that ASC-J9 treatment of KFs reduced cell division, inflammation, and ROS generation, as well as extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis. ELISA assays verified that ASC-J9 treatment significantly mitigated IL-6 protein secretion in KFs. Transmission electron microscopy images revealed that ASC-J9 induced the formation of multilamellar bodies in KFs, which is associated with autophagy-related signaling. These results suggested that inhibiting a vicious cycle of the ROS/STAT3/IL-6 axis by ASC-J9 may represent a potential therapeutic approach to suppress cell proliferation and ECM production in KFs.
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