Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) conduct biochemical signals via lateral dimerization in the plasma membrane, and their transmembrane (TM) domains play an important role in the dimerization process. Here we present two models of RTK-mediated signaling, and we discuss the role of the TM domains within the framework of these two models. We summarize findings of single-amino acid mutations in RTK TM domains that induce unregulated signaling and, as a consequence, pathological phenotypes. We review the current knowledge of pathology induction mechanisms due to these mutations, focusing on the structural and thermodynamic basis of pathogenic dimer stabilization.
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