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Int Rev Immunol. 1998;17(1-4):75-102.

Signal transduction through cytokine receptors.

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Division of Molecular Oncology, Osaka University Medical School, Japan.


Receptors for interleukins, colony stimulating factors, and hormones have a homology in their extracellular regions, characterized by the conserved cysteine residues and the tryptophan-serine-x-tryptophan-serine motif, thus, they are classified to the type 1 cytokine receptor superfamily. Janus tyrosine kinase (JAKs) have been found to be involved in the signal transduction through type I cytokine receptors. JAKs associate with the membrane proximal region in the cytoplasmic domain having box1 and box2, which are conserved among the family, and upon the stimulation JAKs can be aggregated following the receptor dimerization and activated probably by transphosphorylation. JAKs then phosphorylate the receptor and various signal transducing molecules, including STATs (signal transducer and activator of transcriptions) and other SH2-containing adapter molecules. STATs were initially identified as transcription factors containing a SH2 domain and regulating interferons-inducible genes. STATs can be tyrosine phosphorylated by JAKs and form dimer (either hetero- or homo-dimers) to enter the nucleus, resulting in the expression of a set of genes. On the other hand, adapter molecules such as Shc, GRB2, and SHP-2 have been shown to link the cytokine receptors to Ras, followed by the activation of the Raf-MEK-MAP kinase pathway, leading to the activation of various transcription factors in the nucleus. These two signals are generated by different ways upon the stimulation of the receptors and they elicit a variety of biological functions in various cell types. In this review, we will discuss the mechanism by which cytokines activate JAKs, STATs, and a variety of adapter molecules. We further discuss the roles of each signal transduction pathways in the expression of biological activities of cytokines.

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