In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), STAT3 is constitutively phosphorylated on serine 727 and plays a role in the pathobiology of CLL. However, what induces constitutive phosphorylation of STAT3 is currently unknown. Mass spectrometry was used to identify casein kinase 2 (CK2), a serine/threonine kinase that co-immunoprecipitated with serine phosphorylated STAT3 (pSTAT3). Furthermore, activated CK2 incubated with recombinant STAT3 induced phosphorylation of STAT3 on serine 727. Although STAT3 and CK2 are present in normal B- and T-cells, STAT3 is not constitutively phosphorylated in these cells. Further study found that CD5 and BLNK co-expressed in CLL, but not in normal B- or T-cells, are required for STAT3 phosphorylation. To elucidate the relationship of CD5 and BLNK to CK2 and STAT3, STAT3 was immunoprecipitated from CLL cells and CK2, CD5, and BLNK were detected in the immunoprecipitate. Conversely, STAT3, CD5, and BLNK were in the immunoprecipitate of CLL cells immunoprecipitated with CK2 antibodies. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown of CD5 or BLNK, or treatment with CD5-neutralizing antibodies significantly reduced the levels of serine pSTAT3 in CLL cells. Finally, confocal microscopy determined that CD5 is cell membrane bound and fractionation studies revealed that the CK2/CD5/BLNK/STAT3 complex remains in the cytoplasm, whereas serine pSTAT3 is shuttled to the nucleus. Implications: These data show that the cellular proteins CK2, CD5, and BLNK are required for constitutive phosphorylation of STAT3 in CLL. Whether this protein complex phosphorylates other proteins or inhibiting its activity would have clinical benefit in patients has yet to be determined.
- Received August 26, 2016.
- Revision received December 19, 2016.
- Accepted January 10, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.