The protein encoded by this gene is a member of the STAT protein family. In response to cytokines and growth factors, STAT family members are phosphorylated by the receptor associated kinases, and then form homo- or heterodimers that translocate to the cell nucleus where they act as transcription activators. This protein is activated through phosphorylation in response to various cytokines and growth factors including IFNs, EGF, IL5, IL6, HGF, LIF and BMP2. STAT3 mediates the expression of a variety of genes in response to cell stimuli, and thus plays a key role in many cellular processes such as cell growth and apoptosis. The small GTPase Rac1 has been shown to bind and regulate the activity of this protein. PIAS3 protein is a specific inhibitor of this protein. Three alternatively spliced transcript variants encoding distinct isoforms have been described.
STAT3-deficient mouse embryos can not develop beyond embryonic day 7 (E7.0), when gastrulation initiates. It appears that at these early stages of development, STAT3 activation is required for self-renewal of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Indeed, LIF, which is supplied to ESC cultures to maintain their undifferentiated state, can be omitted if STAT3 is activated through some other means.
Constitutive STAT3 activation is associated with various human cancers and commonly suggests poor prognosis. It has anti-apoptotic as well as proliferative effects.
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