The role of suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins in regulation of the immune response

Annu Rev Immunol. 2004;22:503-29. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.22.091003.090312.


Cytokines are an integral component of the adaptive and innate immune responses. The signaling pathways triggered by the engagement of cytokines with their specific cell surface receptors have been extensively studied and have provided a profound understanding of the intracellular machinery that translates exposure of cells to cytokine to a coordinated biological response. It has also become clear that cells have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to prevent excessive responses to cytokines. In this review we focus on the suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family of cytoplasmic proteins that completes a negative feedback loop to attenuate signal transduction from cytokines that act through the janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathway. SOCS proteins inhibit components of the cytokine signaling cascade via direct binding or by preventing access to the signaling complex. The SOCS proteins also appear to target signal transducers for proteasomal destruction. Analyses of genetically modified mice in which SOCS proteins are overexpressed or deleted have established that this family of negative regulators has indispensable roles in regulating cytokine responses in cells of the immune system as well as other tissues. Emerging evidence also suggests that disruption of SOCS expression or activity is associated with several immune and inflammatory diseases, raising the prospect that manipulation of SOCS activity may provide a novel future therapeutic strategy in the management of immunological disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Repressor Proteins / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Repressor Proteins