Dehydroepiandrosterone inhibits the Src/STAT3 constitutive activation in pulmonary arterial hypertension

Roxane Paulin, Jolyane Meloche, Maria Helena Jacob, Malik Bisserier, Audrey Courboulin, Sébastien Bonnet

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106 Scopus citations


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an obstructive vasculopathy characterized by enhanced pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PASMC) proliferation and suppressed apoptosis. This phenotype is sustained by the activation of the Src/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) axis, maintained by a positive feedback loop involving miR-204 and followed by an aberrant expression/activation of its downstream targets such as Pim1 and nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFATc2). Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone shown to reverse vascular remodeling in systemic vessels. Since STAT3 has been described as modulated by DHEA, we hypothesized that DHEA reverses human pulmonary hypertension by inhibiting Src/STAT3 constitutive activation. Using PASMCs isolated from patients with PAH (n = 3), we demonstrated that DHEA decreases both Src and STAT3 activation (Western blot and nuclear translocation assay), resulting in a significant reduction of Pim1, NFATc2 expression/activation (quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot), as well as Survivin and upregulation of bone morphogenetic protein receptor 2 (BMPR2) and miR-204. Src/STAT3 axis inhibition by DHEA is associated with 1) mitochondrial membrane potential (te-tramethylrhodamine methyl-ester perchlorate; n = 150; P < 0.05) depolarization increasing apoptosis by 25% (terminal deoxynucleoti-dyl transferase dUTP-mediated nick-end labeling; n = 150; P < 0.05); and 2) decreased intracellular Ca 2+ concentration (fluo-3 AM; n = 150; P < 0.05) and proliferation by 30% (PCNA). Finally, in vivo similarly to STAT3 inhibition DHEA improves experimental PAH (monocrotaline rats) by decreasing mean PA pressure and right ventricle hypertrophy. These effects were associated with the inhibition of Src, STAT3, Pim1, NFATc2, and Survivin and the upregulation of BMPR2 and miR-204. We demonstrated that DHEA reverses pulmonary hypertension in part by inhibiting the Src/STAT3.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H1798-H1809
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Proliferation
  • Remodeling
  • Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3
  • Therapies


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