Background: Inhibitors for signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), Stattic, BP-1-102, and LLL12 significantly induce apoptosis in transformed Ba/F3 cells expressing an oncogenic fusion protein, nucleophosmin-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (NPM-ALK) that induces the activation of STAT3. We found that the antioxidant reagent, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) prevented the abilities of Stattic and BP-1-102, but not LLL12 to induce apoptosis in transformed cells expressing NPM-ALK, providing a novel problem in use of STAT3 inhibitors. We herein investigated the mechanisms how NAC prevented the effects of Sttatic and BP-1-102. Methods: Ba/F3 cells expressing NPM-ALK and SUDHL-1 cells were treated with antioxidants such as NAC, Trolox or edaravone in combination with STAT3 inhibitors. Phosphorylation of STAT3, cell proliferation rate, cell viability, cell cycle, internucleosomal DNA fragmentation and the intracellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was investigated. The binding of STAT3 inhibitors and NAC was analyzed by LC–MS. Results: NAC but not Trolox and edaravone diminished the abilities of Stattic and BP-1-102 to induce apoptosis in cells expressing NPM-ALK. The ROS levels in cells expressing NPM-ALK were not markedly affected by the treatments with Stattic and BP-1-102 in combination with NAC, suggesting that NAC inhibited the activity of Stattic and BP-1-102 independent of its antioxidant activity. LC–MS analysis revealed that NAC directly bound to Stattic and BP-1-102. Furthermore, these NAC adducts exhibited no cytotoxicity, and failed to affect the activity of STAT3. Conclusions: NAC antagonizes the activities of Stattic and BP-1-102, which inhibit STAT3 activation by interacting with cysteine residues in STAT3.
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