Cytokine receptor family C


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Cytokines are not a clearly defined group of agents, other than having an impact on immune signalling pathways, although many cytokines have effects on other systems, such as in development. A feature of some cytokines, which allows them to be distinguished from hormones, is that they may be produced by “non-secretory” cells, for example, endothelial cells. Within the cytokine receptor family, some subfamilies may be identified, which are described elsewhere in the Guide to PHARMACOLOGY, receptors for the TNF family, the TGF-β family and the chemokines. Within this group of records are described Type I cytokine receptors, typified by interleukin receptors, and Type II cytokine receptors, exemplified by interferon receptors. These receptors possess a conserved extracellular region, known as the cytokine receptor homology domain (CHD), along with a range of other structural modules, including extracellular immunoglobulin (Ig)-like and fibronectin type III (FBNIII)-like domains, a transmembrane domain, and intracellular homology domains. An unusual feature of this group of agents is the existence of soluble and decoy receptors. These bind cytokines without allowing signalling to occur. A further attribute is the production of endogenous antagonist molecules, which bind to the receptors selectively and prevent signalling. A commonality of these families of receptors is the ligand-induced homo- or hetero-oligomerisation, which results in the recruitment of intracellular protein partners to evoke cellular responses, particularly in inflammatory or haematopoietic signalling. Although not an exclusive signalling pathway, a common feature of the majority of cytokine receptors is activation of the JAK/STAT pathway. This cascade is based around the protein tyrosine kinase activity of the Janus kinases (JAK), which phosphorylate the receptor and thereby facilitate the recruitment of signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs). The activated homo- or heterodimeric STATs function principally as transcription factors in the nucleus.

Type I cytokine receptors are characterized by two pairs of conserved cysteines linked via disulfide bonds and a C-terminal WSXWS motif within their CHD. Type I receptors are commonly classified into five groups, based on sequence and structual homology of the receptor and its cytokine ligand, which is potentially more reflective of evolutionary relationships than an earlier scheme based on the use of common signal transducing chains within a receptor complex.

Type II cytokine receptors also have two pairs of conserved cysteines but with a different arrangement to Type I and also lack the WSXWS motif.

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How to cite this family page

Database page citation:

Cytokine receptor family. Accessed on 27/03/2017. IUPHAR/BPS Guide to PHARMACOLOGY,

Concise Guide to PHARMACOLOGY citation:

Alexander SPH, Fabbro D, Kelly E, Marrion N, Peters JA, Benson HE, Faccenda E, Pawson AJ, Sharman JL, Southan C, Davies JA and CGTP Collaborators (2015) The Concise Guide to PHARMACOLOGY 2015/16: Catalytic receptors. Br J Pharmacol. 172: 5979-6023.