RATIONALE: Humans with a dominant negative mutation in STAT3 are susceptible to severe skin infections, suggesting an essential role for STAT3 signaling in defense against cutaneous pathogens.<br /><br />METHODS: To focus on innate antiviral defenses in keratinocytes, we used a standard model of cutaneous infection of severe combined immunodeficient mice with the current smallpox vaccine, ACAM-2000. In parallel, early events post-infection with the smallpox vaccine ACAM-2000 were investigated in cultured keratinocytes of human and mouse origin.<br /><br />RESULTS: Mice treated topically with a STAT3 inhibitor (Stattic) developed larger vaccinia lesions with higher virus titers and died more rapidly than untreated controls. Cultured human and murine keratinocytes infected with ACAM-2000 underwent rapid necrosis, but when treated with Stattic or with inhibitors of RIP1 kinase or caspase-1, they survived longer, produced higher titers of virus, and showed reduced activation of type I interferon responses and inflammatory cytokines release. Treatment with inhibitors of RIP1 kinase and STAT3, but not caspase-1, also reduced the inflammatory response of keratinocytes to TLR ligands. Vaccinia growth properties in Vero cells, which are known to be defective in some antiviral responses, were unaffected by inhibition of RIP1K, caspase-1, or STAT3.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that keratinocytes suppress the replication and spread of vaccinia virus by undergoing rapid programmed cell death, in a process requiring STAT3. These data offer a new framework for understanding susceptibility to skin infection in patients with STAT3 mutations. Interventions which promote prompt necroptosis/pyroptosis of infected keratinocytes may reduce risks associated with vaccination with live vaccinia virus.
He, Y., Fisher, R., Chowdhury, S., Sultana, I., Pereira, C. P., Bray, M., & Reed, J. L. (2014). Vaccinia virus induces rapid necrosis in keratinocytes by a STAT3-dependent mechanism. PLoS ONE, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113690