It has been shown that Stat3 is induced following transient cerebral ischemia in rat. However there is no evidence that cerebral ischemia stimulates the expression of phosphorylated-Stat3 (p-Stat3), which can activate cytokine-mediated signal transduction from the membrane to the nucleus. In the present study, we investigated the changes in p-Stat3 expression following middle cerebral artery occlusion in mice. Western blot analysis revealed a significant increase in the p-Stat3 protein in the peripheral part of the ischemic area, starting from 6 h after ischemia. p-Stat3 immunoreactivity was detected only in neurons, but not in astrocytes or microglia, and p-Stat3-positive neurons were increased in number in the peripheral part of the ischemic area at 24 h after ischemia. Double staining with aTdT-mediated biotinylated UTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) kit and the p-Stat3 antibody indicated that p-Stat3-positive neurons were also TUNEL-positive. Subsequent immuno-electron microscopic observations showed that p-Stat3-positive neurons were at different stages of degeneration. The present findings suggest that the increased expression of p-Stat3 after cerebral ischemia could play a crucial role in ischemia-induced neuron death.
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