Protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) are enzymes that transfer phosphate groups to tyrosine residues on protein substrates. Phosphorylation of proteins causes changes in their function and/or enzymatic activity resulting in specific biological responses. There are two classes of PTKs: the transmembrane receptor PTKs and the cytoplasmic non-receptor PTKs (NRTKs). NRTKs are involved in transduction of signals originating from extracellular clues, which often interact with transmembrane receptors. Thus, they are important components of signaling pathways which regulate fundamental cellular functions such as cell differentiation, apoptosis, survival, and proliferation. The activity of NRTKs is tightly regulated, and de-regulation and/or overexpression of NRTKs has been implicated in malignant transformation and carcinogenesis. Research on NRTKs has shed light on the mechanisms of a number of cellular processes including those involved in carcinogenesis. Not surprisingly, several tyrosine kinase inhibitors are in use as treatment for a number of malignancies, and more are under investigation. This review deals with the structure, function, and signaling pathways of nine main families of NRTKs in normal and cancer cells.
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