JAKs go nuclear: emerging role of nuclear JAK1 and JAK2 in gene expression and cell growth

Growth Factors. 2011 Dec;29(6):245-52. doi: 10.3109/08977194.2011.614949. Epub 2011 Sep 5.


The four Janus kinases (JAKs) comprise a family of intracellular, nonreceptor tyrosine kinases that first gained attention as signaling mediators of the type I and type II cytokine receptors. Subsequently, the JAKs were found to be involved in signaling downstream of the insulin receptor, a number of receptor tyrosine kinases, and certain G-protein coupled receptors. Although a number of cytoplasmic targets for the JAKs have been identified, their predominant action was found to be the phosphorylation and activation of the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) factors. Through the STATs, the JAKs activate gene expression linked to cellular stress, proliferation, and differentiation. The JAKs are especially important in hematopoiesis, inflammation, and immunity, and aberrant JAK activity has been implicated in a number of disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, polycythemia vera, and myeloproliferative diseases. Although once thought to reside strictly in the cytoplasm, recent evidence shows that JAK1 and JAK2 are present in the nucleus of certain cells often under conditions associated with high rates of cell growth. Nuclear JAKs have now been shown to affect gene expression by activating other transcription factors besides the STATs and exerting epigenetic actions, for example, by phosphorylating histone H3. The latter action derepresses global gene expression and has been implicated in leukemogenesis. Nuclear JAKs may have a role as well in stem cell biology. Here we describe recent developments in understanding the noncanonical nuclear actions of JAK1 and JAK2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Janus Kinase 1 / genetics
  • Janus Kinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Janus Kinase 2 / genetics
  • Janus Kinase 2 / metabolism*
  • STAT Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Histones
  • STAT Transcription Factors
  • Janus Kinase 1
  • Janus Kinase 2