Redox Biology (2020-09-01)

To inhibit TrxR1 is to inactivate STAT3–Inhibition of TrxR1 enzymatic function by STAT3 small molecule inhibitors

  • Sander Busker,
  • Brent Page,
  • Elias S.J. Arnér

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 36
p. 101646


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The transcription factor STAT3 plays a key role in cancer and immunity, being widely explored as a potential drug target for the development of novel immunomodulatory or anticancer therapeutics. The mechanisms of small molecule-derived inhibition of STAT3 appear, however, to be more complex than initially perceived. Our recent discovery, that some novel STAT3 inhibitors were bona fide inhibitors of the cytosolic selenoprotein oxidoreductase TrxR1 (TXNRD1), led us to explore the effects of a wide array of previously described STAT3 inhibitors on TrxR1 function. We found that 17 out of 23 tested STAT3 small molecule inhibitors indeed inhibited purified TrxR1 at the reported concentrations yielding STAT3 inhibition. All tested compounds were electrophilic as shown by direct reactivities with GSH, and several were found to also be redox cycling substrates of TrxR1. Ten compounds previously shown to inhibit STAT3 were here found to irreversibly inhibit cellular TrxR1 activity (Auranofin, Stattic, 5,15-DPP, Galiellalactone, LLL12, Napabucasin, BP1-102, STA-21, S3I-201 and Degrasyn (WP1130)). Our findings suggest that targeting of TrxR1 may be a common feature for many small molecules that inhibit cellular STAT3 function. It is possible that prevention of STAT3 activation in cells by several small molecules classified as STAT3 inhibitors can be a downstream event following TrxR1 inhibition. Therefore, the relationship between TrxR1 and STAT3 should be considered when studying inhibition of either of these promising drug targets.