We look back on the discoveries that the tyrosine kinases TYK2 and JAK1 and the transcription factors STAT1, STAT2, and IRF9 are required for the cellular response to type I interferons. This initial description of the JAK-STAT pathway led quickly to additional discoveries that type II interferons and many other cytokines signal through similar mechanisms. This well-understood pathway now serves as a paradigm showing how information from protein-protein contacts at the cell surface can be conveyed directly to genes in the nucleus. We also review recent work on the STAT proteins showing the importance of several different posttranslational modifications, including serine phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation, and sumoylation. These remarkably proficient proteins also provide noncanonical functions in transcriptional regulation and they also function in mitochondrial respiration and chromatin organization in ways that may not involve transcription at all.
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