FMS-like Tyrosine Kinase 3/FLT3: From Basic Science to Clinical Implications

Physiol Rev. 2019 Jul 1;99(3):1433-1466. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00029.2018.


FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that is expressed almost exclusively in the hematopoietic compartment. Its ligand, FLT3 ligand (FL), induces dimerization and activation of its intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity. Activation of FLT3 leads to its autophosphorylation and initiation of several signal transduction cascades. Signaling is initiated by the recruitment of signal transduction molecules to activated FLT3 through binding to specific phosphorylated tyrosine residues in the intracellular region of FLT3. Activation of FLT3 mediates cell survival, cell proliferation, and differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cells. It acts in synergy with several other cytokines to promote its biological effects. Deregulated FLT3 activity has been implicated in several diseases, most prominently in acute myeloid leukemia where around one-third of patients carry an activating mutant of FLT3 which drives the disease and is correlated with poor prognosis. Overactivity of FLT3 has also been implicated in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The observation that gain-of-function mutations of FLT3 can promote leukemogenesis has stimulated the development of inhibitors that target this receptor. Many of these are in clinical trials, and some have been approved for clinical use. However, problems with acquired resistance to these inhibitors are common and, furthermore, only a fraction of patients respond to these selective treatments. This review provides a summary of our current knowledge regarding structural and functional aspects of FLT3 signaling, both under normal and pathological conditions, and discusses challenges for the future regarding the use of targeted inhibition of these pathways for the treatment of patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3 / genetics
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3 / physiology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Membrane Proteins
  • flt3 ligand protein
  • FLT3 protein, human
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3