STAT3 as a common signal of ischemic conditioning: a lesson on “rigor and reproducibility” in preclinical studies on cardioprotection.

November 20, 2017

Gerd Heusch

Ischemic conditioning before (ischemic preconditioning, IPC) or after (ischemic postconditioning, POCO) sustained myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (I/R), induced locally or remotely from the heart (remote IPC, RIPC), reduces infarct size. However, none of the identified signaling steps of ischemic conditioning was robust across models and species to be successfully translated to humans. In prior separate studies in pigs, activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) was causal for infarct size reduction by IPC, POCO, and RIPC but it remains unclear whether or not STAT3 is truly a common denominator of cardioprotective signaling. We therefore, now analyzed the phosphorylation of STAT3 and other signaling proteins in left ventricular biopsies from our prior studies on IPC, POCO and RIPC in one approach. We developed a strategy for the quantification of protein phosphorylation in multiple samples from many experiments on different gels/membranes by Western blot. Along with reduced infarct size, the ratio of STAT3tyr705 phosphorylation/total STAT3 protein at early reperfusion was significantly increased by IPC (IPC 2.0 ± 0.3 vs. I/R 1.2 ± 0.2 arbitrary units), but only trendwise by POCO and RIPC (1.3 ± 0.2; 1.4 ± 0.2 arbitrary units); storage time for IPC samples was shorter than for POCO and RIPC samples. No other signaling protein phosphorylation was associated with reduced infarct size. We confirmed STAT3 phosphorylation with IPC. For POCO and RIPC we could not reproduce the findings from our earlier more focused studies. At this point, we can not distinguish between lack of robustness of the biological signal and methodological issues of our retrospective approach.

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