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Growth Factors. 2018 Aug;36(3-4):104-117. doi: 10.1080/08977194.2018.1518324. Epub 2018 Oct 15.

Understanding SOCS protein specificity.

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a Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research , Parkville , Australia.
b Department of Medical Biology , University of Melbourne , Parkville , Australia.


The development and activity of our immune system are largely controlled by the action of pleiotropic cytokines and growth factors, small secreted proteins, which bind to receptors on the surface of immune cells to initiate an appropriate physiological response. Cytokine signalling is predominantly executed by intracellular proteins known as the Janus kinases (JAKs) and the signal transducers and activators of transcriptions (STATs). Although the 'nuts and bolts' of cytokine-activated pathways have been well established, the nuanced way in which distinct cellular outcomes are achieved and the precise molecular details of the proteins that regulate these pathways are still being elucidated. This is highlighted by the intricate role of the suppressor of cytokine signalling (SOCS) proteins. The SOCS proteins act as negative feedback inhibitors, dampening specific cytokine signals to prevent excessive cellular responses and returning the cell to a homeostatic state. A great deal of study has demonstrated their ability to inhibit these pathways at the receptor complex, either through direct inhibition of JAK activity or by targeting the receptor complex for proteasomal degradation. Detailed analysis of individual SOCS proteins is slowly revealing the complex and highly controlled manner by which they can achieve specificity for distinct substrates. However, for many of the SOCS, a level of detail is still lacking, including confident identification of the full suite of tyrosine phosphorylated targets of their SH2 domain. This review will highlight the general mechanisms which govern SOCS specificity of action and discuss the similarities and differences between selected SOCS proteins, focusing on CIS, SOCS1 and SOCS3. Because of the functional and sequence similarities within the SOCS family, we will also discuss the evidence for functional redundancy.


Cytokine; JAK; SH2; SOCS; STAT; signalling

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