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Keywords:

  • SOCS;
  • Cytokine;
  • Signal transduction;
  • JAK;
  • STAT

Abstract

Cytokines regulate the growth and differentiation of cells by binding to cell-surface receptors and activating intracellular signal transduction cascades such as the JAK-STAT pathway. Cytokine signaling is negatively regulated with respect to both magnitude and duration, and it is now clear that the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family of proteins (SOCS1-SOCS7 and CIS) contributes significantly to this process. Transcripts encoding CIS, SOCS1, SOCS2, and SOCS3 are upregulated in response to cytokine stimulation, and the corresponding SOCS proteins inhibit cytokine-induced signaling pathways. SOCS proteins therefore form part of a classical negative feedback circuit. SOCS family members modulate signaling by several mechanisms, which include inactivation of the Janus kinases (JAKs), blocking access of the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs) to receptor binding sites, and ubiquitination of signaling proteins and their subsequent targeting to the proteasome. Gene targeting has been used to generate mice lacking socs1, socs2, or socs3, in order to elucidate the physiological function of these SOCS family members. The analysis of socs1−/– mice has revealed that SOCS1 plays a key role in the negative regulation of interferon-γ signaling and in T cell differentiation. Socs2−/– mice are 30%-40% larger than wild-type mice, demonstrating that SOCS2 is a critical regulator of postnatal growth. Additionally, the study of embryos lacking socs3 has revealed that SOCS3 is an important regulator of fetal liver hematopoiesis. The biological role of other SOCS proteins remains to be determined.