Normal and oncogenic forms of the receptor tyrosine kinase kit

Stem Cells. 2005;23(1):16-43. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2004-0117.


Kit is a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) that binds stem cell factor. This receptor ligand combination is important for normal hematopoiesis, as well as pigmentation, gut function, and reproduction. Structurally, Kit has both an extracellular and intracellular region. Theintra-cellular region is comprised of a juxtamembrane domain (JMD), a kinase domain, a kinase insert, and a carboxyl tail. Inappropriate expression or activation of Kit is associated with a variety of diseases in humans. Activating mutations in Kit have been identified primarily in the JMD and the second part of the kinase domain and have been associated with gastrointestinal stromal cell tumors and mastocytosis, respectively. There are also reports of activating mutations in some forms of germ cell tumors and core binding factor leukemias. Since the cloning of the Kit ligand in the early 1990s, there has been an explosion of information relating to the mechanism of action of normal forms of Kit as well as activated mutants. This is important because understanding this RTK at the biochemical level could assist in the development of therapeutics to treat primary and secondary defects in the tissues that require Kit. Furthermore, understanding the mechanisms mediating transformation of cells by activated Kit mutants will help in the design of interventions for human disease associated with these mutations. The objective of this review is to summarize what is known about normal and oncogenic forms of Kit. We will place particular emphasis on recent developments in understanding the mechanisms of action of normal and activated forms of this RTK and its association with human disease, particularly in hematopoietic cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Lineage
  • Dimerization
  • Hematopoiesis / physiology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit* / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit* / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stem Cell Factor / metabolism


  • Stem Cell Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit