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HTLV-1 infection causes an adult T cell leukemia in humans. The viral encoded protein tax, is thought to play an important role in oncogenesis. Our previous data obtained from a tax transgenic mouse model revealed that tax transforms mouse fibroblasts but not thymocytes, despite comparable levels of tax expression in both tissues. Constitutive tyrosine phosphorylation of a 130-kD protein(s) was observed in the tax transformed fibroblast B line and in HTLV-1 transformed human lymphoid lines, but not in thymocytes from Thy-tax transgenic mice. Phosphotyrosine immunoprecipitation followed by Western blot analysis with a set of Jak kinase specific antibodies, identified p130 as Jak2 in the tax transformed mouse fibroblastic cell line and Jak3 in HTLV-1 transformed human T cell lines. Phosphorylation of Jak2 in tax transformed cells resulted from high expression of IL-6. Tyrosine phosphorylation of this protein could also be induced in Balb/c3T3 cells using a supernatant from the B line, which was associated with induction of cell proliferation. Both phosphorylation and proliferation were inhibited by IL-6 neutralizing antibodies. Constitutive phosphorylation of Jak kinases may facilitate tumor growth in both HTLV-1 infected human T cells and the transgenic mouse model.