Signal Transduction of the Cytokine Receptor

  • Watanabe, Sumiko (Department of Molecular and Developmental Biology, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo)
  • Published : 1998.06.01


Cytokines regulate proliferation, differentiation and functions of haemotopoietic cells. Each cytokine possesses a variety of activities on various target cells (pleiotropy) and various cytokines have similar and overlapping activities on the same target cells (redundancy). The nature of these cytokine activities predicts unique feature of cytokine receptors, namely, cytokine has multiple receptors, different cytokines share a common receptor, and different cytokine receptors are linked to common signaling pathways. cDNA cloning of genes for cytokine receptors revealed distinct sets of receptor family with different structural features. The cytokine receptor superfamily consists of a largest family, and contains more than twenty cytokine receptor subunits. This receptor has common structural features in both extracellular and intracellular regions without tyrosine kinase domain. Another striking feature of the receptor is to share common subunit of multiple cytokines, which partly explains the redundancy of activities of some cytokines. Recent studies revealed detailed signaling events of the cytokine receptor, the primary activation of JAK and subsequent phosphorylation of tyrosine residues of receptor, and various cellular proteins. Many SH2 containing adapter proteins play an important role in cytokine signals, and this system has similarities with tyrosine kinase receptor signal transduction. STAT may mainly account for cytokine specific functions as suggested by knockout mice studies. It is of importance to note that cytokine activates multiple signaling pathways and the balance and combination of related signaling events may determine the specificity of functions of cytokines.