Cytokines and interferons are molecules that play central roles in the regulation of a wide array of cellular functions in the lympho-hematopoietic system. These factors stimulate proliferation, differentiation, and survival signals, as well as specialized functions in host resistance to pathogens. Although cytokines are known to activate multiple signaling pathways that together mediate these important functions, one of these pathways, the Jak-STAT pathway, is the focus of this chapter. This pathway is triggered by both cytokines and interferons, and it very rapidly allows the transduction of an extracellular signal into the nucleus. The pathway uses a novel mechanism in which cytosolic latent transcription factors, known as signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs), are tyrosine phosphorylated by Janus family tyrosine kinases (Jaks), allowing STAT protein dimerization and nuclear translocation. STATs then can modulate the expression of target genes. The basic biology of this system, including the range of known Jaks and STATs, is discussed, as are the defects in animals and humans lacking some of these signaling molecules.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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