Structure and regulation of Kit protein-tyrosine kinase--the stem cell factor receptor

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Dec 23;338(3):1307-15. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2005.09.150. Epub 2005 Oct 4.


Signaling by stem cell factor and Kit, its receptor, play important roles in gametogenesis, hematopoiesis, mast cell development and function, and melanogenesis. Moreover, human and mouse embryonic stem cells express Kit transcripts. Stem cell factor exists as both a soluble and a membrane-bound glycoprotein while Kit is a glycoprotein receptor protein-tyrosine kinase. The complete absence of stem cell factor or Kit is lethal. Gain-of-function mutations of Kit are associated with several human neoplasms including acute myelogenous leukemia, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, mastocytomas, and nasal T-cell lymphomas. Binding of stem cell factor to Kit results in receptor dimerization and activation of protein kinase activity. The activated receptor becomes autophosphorylated at tyrosine residues that serve as docking sites for signal transduction molecules containing SH2 domains. Kit activates Akt, Src family kinases, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, phospholipase Cgamma, and Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinases. Kit exists in active and inactive conformations as determined by X-ray crystallography. Kit consists of an extracellular domain, a transmembrane segment, a juxtamembrane domain, and a protein kinase domain that contains an insert of about 80 amino acid residues. The juxtamembrane domain inhibits enzyme activity in cis by maintaining the control alphaC-helix and the activation loop in their inactive conformations. The juxtamembrane domain also inhibits receptor dimerization. STI-571, a clinically effective targeted protein-tyrosine kinase inhibitor, binds to an inactive conformation of Kit. The majority of human gastrointestinal stromal tumors have Kit gain-of-function mutations in the juxtamembrane domain, and most people with these tumors respond to STI-571. STI-571 binds to Kit and Bcr-Abl (the oncoprotein of chronic myelogenous leukemia) at their ATP-binding sites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzamides
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Benzamides
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit