The interleukin-2 (IL-2) receptor gamma chain (gammac) is shared by receptor complexes used by IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9 and IL-15, all of which are cytokines involved in lymphocyte development and/or activation. Gammac is physically and functionally associated with the JAK3 tyrosine kinase. This molecular pair may be considered as the trigger of the signalling cascades, inducing the activation of JAK1 upon heterodimerization with a cytokine-specific receptor component. JAK1, JAK3 and other tyrosine kinases, the nature of which varies between cytokines, phosphorylate the receptor, thereby creating docking sites for signalling molecules. Among them, PI 3-kinase and downstream effectors play a central role in the signalling processes involved in proliferation and inhibition of apoptosis for every gammac-interacting cytokine, although the mechanism of activation may vary between cytokines. Other important mediators--STAT transcription factors--regulate the expression of specific genes. IL-2, IL-7, IL-9 and IL-15 activate STAT3 and STAT5, in contrast to IL-4, which activates STAT6. These cytokines also trigger specific pathways, such as the MAP kinase cascade for IL-2 and IL-15, and the cascade responsible for immunoglobulin gene V-D-J rearrangement in response to IL-7.