The Btk family kinases represent new members of non-receptor tyrosine kinases, which include Btk/Atk, Itk/Emt/Tsk, Bmx/Etk, and Tec. They are characterized by having four structural modules: PH (pleckstrin homology) domain, SH3 (Src homology 3) domain, SH2 (Src homology 2) domain and kinase (Src homology 1) domain. Increasing evidence suggests that, like Src-family kinases, Btk family kinases play central but diverse modulatory roles in various cellular processes. They participate in signal transduction in response to virtually all types of extracellular stimuli which are transmitted by growth factor receptors, cytokine receptors, G-protein coupled receptors, antigen-receptors and integrins. They are regulated by many non-receptor tyrosine kinases such as Src, Jak, Syk and FAK family kinases. In turn, they regulate many of major signaling pathways including those of PI3K, PLCγ and PKC. Both genetic and biochemical approaches have been used to dissect the signaling pathways and elucidate their roles in growth, differentiation and apoptosis. An emerging new role of this family of kinases is cytoskeletal reorganization and cell motility. The physiological importance of these kinases was amply demonstrated by their link to the development of immunodeficiency diseases, due to germ-line mutations. The present article attempts to review the structure and functions of Btk family kinases by summarizing our current knowledge on the interacting partners associated with the different modules of the kinases and the diverse signaling pathways in which they are involved.
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