Dancing rhinos in stilettos: The amazing saga of the genomic and nongenomic actions of STAT3 in the heart

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A substantial body of evidence has shown that signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has an important role in the heart in protecting the myocardium from ischemia and oxidative stress. These actions are attributed to STAT3 functioning as a transcription factor in upregulating cardioprotective genes. Loss of STAT3 has been implicated as well in the pathogenesis of heart failure and, in that context and in addition to the loss of a cardioprotective gene program, nuclear STAT3 has been identified as a transcriptional repressor important for the normal functioning of the ubiquitin-proteasome system for protein degradation. The later finding establishes a genomic role for STAT3 in controlling cellular homeostasis in cardiac myocytes independent of stress. Surprisingly, although a well-studied area, very few downstream gene targets of STAT3 in the heart have been definitively identified. In addition, STAT3 is now known to induce gene expression by noncanonical means that are not well characterized in the heart. On the other hand, recent evidence has shown that STAT3 has important nongenomic actions in cardiac myocytes that affect microtubule stability, mitochondrial respiration, and autophagy. These extranuclear actions of STAT3 involve protein-protein interactions that are incompletely understood, as is their regulation in both the healthy and injured heart. Moreover, how the diverse genomic and nongenomic actions of STAT3 crosstalk with each other is unchartered territory. Here we present an overview of what is and is not known about both the genomic and nongenomic actions of STAT3 in the heart from a structure-function perspective that focuses on the impact of posttranslational modifications and oxidative stress in regulating the actions and interactions of STAT3. Even though we have learnt a great deal about the role played by STAT3 in the heart, much more awaits to be discovered.

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