STAT (signal transducers and activators of transcription) proteins are activated in response to a large number of cytokines, growth factors, and hormones. Upon activation following the binding of ligands to their receptors, STAT proteins dimerize, translocate to the nucleus, and bind to the promoters of specific target genes. To date, seven mammalian members of the STAT family have been identified. Although some cytokines and growth factors can activate multiple STAT proteins, some STATs are activated with considerable specificity. The physiological role of each individual STAT protein is now being examined through the study of "knockout" mice, harboring a null allele for the particular gene. STAT1-deficient mice exhibit a selective signaling defect in response to interferons. STAT4 and STAT6 are essential for Thl-and Th2-responses, respectively. STAT5a-deficient mice exhibit defective mammary gland development. A study of STAT5b-deficient mice indicates that STAT5b mediates the sexually dimorphic effects of growth hormone in the liver. STAT5a and 5b also play different biological roles in the immune system. STAT3-deficient mice die during early embryogenesis, but the role of STAT3 in adult tissues can be assessed by utilizing the CreloxP recombination system to ablate the gene later in life. Analyses of tissue-specific STAT3-deficient mice indicate that STAT3 plays a crucial role in a variety of biological functions, including cell growth, suppression of apoptosis, and cell motility.