Growing evidence suggests that Stat3 contributes to chemoresistance. However, the impact of chemotherapy on Stat3 activity is unclear. We found that paclitaxel activated Stat3 in the human lung cancer cell lines PC14PE6AS2 (AS2) and H157, whereas it reduced Stat3 activation in A549 and H460 cells. Pretreatment of AS2 and H157 cells with rotenone, an inhibitor of mitochondrially produced reactive oxygen species (ROS), or carbonyl cyanide p-(trifluoromethoxy)-phenylhydrazone (FCCP), a mitochondrial uncoupler, suppressed the paclitaxel-induced activation of Stat3. Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP-2), located in the inner membrane of the mitochondria, can reduce ROS production in conditions of oxidative stress. UCP-2 protein expression in the four cancer cell lines was higher than that in normal lung epithelial cells (NL-20), but its expression was lower in AS2 and H157 cells relative to A549 and H460 cells. Silencing high UCP-2 expression with small interfering RNA (siRNA) in A549 and H460 cells restored paclitaxel-induced Stat3 activation. In addition, paclitaxel-induced Stat3 activation led to the upregulation of survivin and Mcl-1, which in turn facilitated cell survival. Moreover, the CL1-5 subline had lower UCP-2 expression relative to the parental CL1-0 cells. Treatment with paclitaxel activated Stat3 in CL1-5 but not in CL1-0 cells, whereas in CL1-5 cells, the overexpression of UCP-2 with complementary DNA (cDNA) blocked Stat3 activation. In lung cancer patients, low UCP-2 expression in cancer cells was a predictor of a poor response to chemotherapy. Therefore, UCP-2 modulates the ROS/Stat3 signaling pathway and response to chemotherapy treatment in lung cancer cells. Targeting UCP-2, ROS and Stat3 pathways may improve anticancer therapies.
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