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STATs In NK-Cells: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

D. Gotthardt, V. Sexl
Published 2017 · Biology, Medicine

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Natural killer (NK)-cells are major players in the fight against viral infections and transformed cells, but there is increasing evidence attributing a disease-promoting role to NK-cells. Cytokines present in the tumor microenvironment shape NK-cell maturation, function, and effector responses. Many cytokines signal via the Janus kinase (JAK)–signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) pathway that is also frequently altered and constitutively active in a broad range of tumor cells. As a consequence, there are currently major efforts to develop therapeutic strategies to target this pathway. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the role and contributions of JAK–STAT molecules in NK-cell biology—only this knowledge will allow us to predict effects of JAK–STAT inhibition for NK-cell functions and to successfully apply precision medicine. We will review the current knowledge on the role of JAK–STAT signaling for NK-cell functions and discuss conditions involved in the switch from NK-cell tumor surveillance to disease promotion.
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