Aberrant angiogenesis is a hallmark of cardiovascular and retinal neovascular disease. The STAT3 signaling pathway represents a potential pharmacological target for these diseases due to its impact on angiogenesis. Surprisingly, some STAT3 activators, such as the IL-6 cytokine family member oncostatin M (OSM), enhance angiogenesis, whereas others, such as ciliary neurotropic factor (CNTF), reduce it. This study aimed to clarify these conflicting effects. In contrast to the anti-angiogenic cytokine CNTF, the pro-angiogenic cytokine OSM was able to activate intracellular signaling pathways beyond the STAT3 pathway, including the ERK and AKT pathways. These differences translated into transcriptomic and metabolic shifts. siRNA-mediated STAT3 knockdown experiments showed a decrease in VEGF-induced endothelial migration and sprouting, enhancing the pro-angiogenic drive of OSM and switching the CNTF response from anti-angiogenic to pro-angiogenic. These effects correlated with a transcriptomic shift representing enhanced STAT1 and ERK activity following STAT3 knockdown, including a compensatory prolonged phosphorylated STAT1 activity. In conclusion, the angiogenic effect of STAT3 appears to be determined by cytokine-induced STAT3 specificity and simultaneous activity of other intracellular signaling pathways, whereas the STAT3 pathway, predominantly recognized for its pro-angiogenic phenotypes, reveals novel anti-angiogenic potential.

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