JAK1: Number one in the family; number one in inflammation?

Several cytokines involved in inflammatory pathologies signal via the Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription pathway. Four JAKs are known: JAK1, JAK2, JAK3 and TYK2. The specific activation of JAKs and STATs determines the biological effects of each cytokine. JAK1 is involved in the signalling of 'γc' receptor cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15 and IL-21), pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6, as well as IFN. The critical position of JAK1 downstream of these cytokines suggests that JAK1-selective inhibitors are comparable to non-selective ones, without the unwanted consequences of JAK2- or JAK3-blockade. JAK inhibition has led to a better understanding of the biology of synovial inflammation and bone homeostasis. Moreover, the efficacy of non-selective JAK inhibitors and novel JAK1-selective drugs in RA supports a role for JAK1 in its pathogenesis. JAK1-selective drugs are also showing promise in axial spondyloarthritis, suggesting that they may target additional regulatory pathways that impact cytokines such as TNF and IL-17A, which do not use JAKs. Additionally, evidence now supports a JAK1 predominance in the signalling of IL-6 and oncostatin M, and indirectly, of TNF in synovial fibroblasts, macrophages and endothelial cells. Notably, bone homeostasis is also dependent on cytokines relying on JAK1 signalling to promote receptor activator of NF-κB ligand expression in osteoblasts and T cells, contributing to osteoclastogenesis. Here, the contribution of JAK1 over other kinases is unclear. While beneficial effects of JAK inhibitors on bone erosion are supported by preclinical and clinical data, effects on new bone formation in axial spondyloarthritis requires additional study.


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Authors: Francesca Romana Spinelli, Robert A Colbert, Massimo Gadina