Most cell surface receptors for growth factors and cytokines dimerize in order to mediate signal transduction. For many such receptors, the Janus kinase (Jak) family of non-receptor protein tyrosine kinases are recruited in pairs and juxtaposed by dimerized receptor complexes in order to activate one another by trans-phosphorylation. An alternative mechanism for Jak trans-phosphorylation has been proposed in which the phosphorylated kinase interacts with the Src homology 2 (SH2) domain of SH2-B, a unique adaptor protein with the capacity to homo-dimerize. Building on a rule-based kinetic modeling approach that considers the concerted nature and combinatorial complexity of modular protein domain interactions, we examine these mechanisms in detail, focusing on the growth hormone (GH) receptor/Jak2/SH2-Bbeta system. The modeling results suggest that, whereas Jak2-(SH2-Bbeta)(2)-Jak2 heterotetramers are scarcely expected to affect Jak2 phosphorylation, SH2-Bbeta and dimerized receptors synergistically promote Jak2 trans-activation in the context of intracellular signaling. Analysis of the results revealed a unique mechanism whereby SH2-B and receptor dimers constitute a bipolar 'clamp' that stabilizes the active configuration of two Jak2 molecules in the same macro-complex.