Aryl hydrocarbon receptor mediates Jak2/STAT3 signaling for non-small cell lung cancer stem cell maintenance

Jie Xiong, Xinxin Zhang, Yong Zhang, Bin Wu, Liang Fang, Ning Wang, Hongyu Yi, Ning Chang, Lihua Chen, Jian Zhang
Experimental Cell Research 2020 September 14, 396 (1): 112288
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play an important role in shaping the invasive cancer phenotype by contributing to tumor initiation, metastasis, relapse, and therapeutic resistance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a ligand activated transcription factor, which is well known for mediating the toxicity and tumorigenesis of a variety of environmental pollutants, has been extensively recognized as an important mediator in NSCLC development. Here, evidence showed that AhR was overexpressed in NSCLC tissues, and a high AhR protein level was associated with an aggressive tumor phenotype. Knockdown of AhR suppressed cell proliferation, invasion and migration, as well as CSC-like properties, while upregulation and activation of AhR enhanced CSC-like properties and increased stem cell-associated gene expression in NSCLC cells. Elevated and activated AhR leads to phosphorylation of janus kinase 2 (Jak2), as well as its downstream effector, activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), while inhibition of Jak2/STAT3 signaling by pharmacologic approach attenuates the effects of AhR-mediated NSCLC cell stemness, suggesting a role for the Jak2/STAT3 pathway in AhR-regulated NSCLC stemness. In summary, our study uncovers a transcriptional-independent mechanism of AhR through which AhR mediates NSCLC stemness via Jak2/STAT3 signaling pathway, indicating a promising target for the treatment of NSCLC.

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