Serine phosphorylation and maximal activation of STAT3 during CNTF signaling is mediated by the rapamycin target mTOR.
Neuropoletic cytokines such as ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) can activate multiple signaling pathways in parallel, including those involving Janus kinase (JAK)-signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) and mammalian target of rapamydn (mTOR)-p70 S6 kinase . Crosstalk occurs between these pathways, because studies have shown that STAT3 requires phosphorylation on tyrosine and serine residues by independent protein kinase activities for maximal activation of target gene transcription. Members of the JAK/Tyk family of tyrosine kinases mediate phosphorylation of STAT3 at Tyr705 during CNTF signaling; however, the kinase responsible for phosphorylation at STAT3 Tyr727 appears to depend on both the extracellular stimulus and the cellular context. Here we investigate the kinase activity responsible for phosphorylation of STAT3 on Ser727 in CNTF-stimulated neuroblastoma cells. We found that CNTF-induced phosphorylation of Ser727 was inhibited by the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, but not by inhibitors of MAPK and protein kinase C (PKC) activation. A STAT3 peptide was efficiently phosphorylated on Ser727 in a CNTF-dependent manner by mTOR, but not by a kinase-inactive mTOR mutant or by p70 S6 kinase. In agreement with these biochemical studies, rapamycin treatment of cells transfected with a STAT-responsive promoter reporter decreased activation of the reporter to the same degree as a STAT3 Ser727Ala mutant The ability of mTOR to contribute to activation of STAT3 extends the function of mTOR in mammalian cells to include transcriptional regulation.