Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have unique properties, including self-renewal, differentiation, and chemoresistance. In this study, we found that p21-activated kinase (PAK1) inhibitor (Group I, PAK inhibitor, IPA-3) and inactivator (ivermectin) treatments inhibit cell proliferation and that tumor growth of PAK1-knockout cells in a mouse model is significantly reduced. IPA-3 and ivermectin inhibit CSC formation. PAK1 physically interacts with Janus Kinase 2 (JAK2), and JAK2 inhibitor (TG101209) treatment inhibits mammosphere formation and reduces the nuclear PAK1 protein level. PAK1 interacts with signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3), and PAK1 and Stat3 colocalize in the nucleus. We show through electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), and reporter assays that the PAK1/Stat3 complex binds to the IL-6
promoter and regulates the transcription of the IL-6
gene. Inhibition of PAK1 and JAK2 in mammospheres reduces the nuclear pStat3 and extracellular IL-6 levels. PAK1 inactivation inhibits CSC formation by decreasing pStat3 and extracellular IL-6 levels. Our results reveal that JAK2/PAK1 dysregulation inhibits the Stat3 signaling pathway and CSC formation, the PAK1/Stat3 complex regulates IL-6
gene expression, PAK1/Stat3 signaling regulates CSC formation, and PAK1 may be an important target for treating breast cancer.
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