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STATs (signal transducers and activators of transcription) are a family of latent cytoplasmic proteins that are activated to participate in gene control when cells encounter various extracellular polypeptides. Biochemical and molecular genetic explorations have defined a single tyrosine phosphorylation site and, in a dimeric partner molecule, an Src homology 2 (SH2) phosphotyrosine-binding domain, a DNA interaction domain, and a number of protein-protein interaction domains (with receptors, other transcription factors, the transcription machinery, and perhaps a tyrosine phosphatase). Mouse genetics experiments have defined crucial roles for each known mammalian STAT. The discovery of a STAT inDrosophila, and most recently in Dictyostelium discoideum, implies an ancient evolutionary origin for this dual-function set of proteins.