Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common cancer predisposition syndrome in which affected individuals develop benign and malignant nerve tumors. The NF1 gene product neurofibromin negatively regulates Ras and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, prompting clinical trials to evaluate the ability of Ras and mTOR pathway inhibitors to arrest NF1-associated tumor growth. To discover other downstream targets of neurofibromin, we performed an unbiased cell-based high-throughput chemical library screen using NF1-deficient malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) cells. We identified the natural product, cucurbitacin-I ( JSI-124), which inhibited NF1-deficient cell growth by inducing apoptosis. We further showed that signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3), the target of cucurbitacin-I inhibition, was hyperactivated in NF1-deficient primary astrocytes and neural stem cells, mouse glioma cells, and human MPNST cells through Ser727 phosphorylation, leading to increased cyclin D1 expression. STAT3 was regulated in NF1-deficient cells of murine and human origin in a TORC1- and Rac1-dependent manner. Finally, cucurbitacin-I inhibited the growth of NF1-deficient MPNST cells in vivo. In summary, we used a chemical genetics approach to reveal STAT3 as a novel neurofibromin/mTOR pathway signaling molecule, define its action and regulation, and establish STAT3 as a tractable target for future NF1-associated cancer therapy studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research