The Jak-STAT pathway was originally discovered through the study of interferon induced intracellular signal transduction. Meanwhile, a large number of cytokines, hormones and growth factors have been found to activate Jaks and STATs. Jaks (Janus Kinases) are a unique class of tyrosine kinases that associate with cytokine receptors. Upon ligand binding, they activate members of the Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (STAT) family through phosphorylation on a single tyrosine. Activated STATs form dimers, translocate to the nucleus, bind to specific response elements in promotors of target genes, and transcriptionally activate these genes. Both positive and negative regulations of the Jak-STAT pathway have been identified. In a positive feedback loop, interferons transcriptionally activate the genes for components of the interferon stimulated gene factor 3 (ISGF3). A number of cytokines that activate the Jak-STAT pathway, e.g. IL-6, IL-4, LIF, G-CSF, have been shown to upregulate the expression of SOCS-JABs-SSIs, a recently discovered class of STAT inhibitors. Targeted disruption of genes for a number of Jaks and STATs in mice have revealed specific biological functions for many of them. Although most of the STATs are activated in cell culture by many different ligands, STAT knockout mice mostly show defects in a single or a few cytokine dependent processes. STAT1 knockout mice have an impaired interferon signalling, STAT4 knockouts impaired IL-12 signalling, STAT5a knockouts impaired prolactin signalling, STAT5b knockouts impaired growth hormone signalling, and STAT6 knockout impaired IL-4 and IL-13 signalling. Defects in the Jak-STAT pathway have already been identified in a number of human diseases. Prominent amongst them are leukaemias, lymphomas and inherited immunodeficiency syndromes. It can be expected that additional Jak-STAT related diseases will be identified over the next years. To date, specific STAT inhibitory drugs are not known, but a number of specific protein-protein interactions in the Jak-STAT pathway are potential targets for pharmaceutical interventions.