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Reviewed March 2011
What is the official name of the ALK gene?
The official name of this gene is “anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase.”
ALK is the gene's official symbol. The ALK gene is also known by other names, listed below.
Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.
What is the normal function of the ALK gene?
The ALK gene provides instructions for making a protein called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, part of a family of proteins called receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Receptor tyrosine kinases transmit signals from the cell surface into the cell through a process called signal transduction. The process begins when the kinase is stimulated at the cell surface and then attaches to a similar kinase (dimerizes). After dimerization, the kinase is tagged with a marker called a phosphate group (a cluster of oxygen and phosphorus atoms) in a process called phosphorylation. Phosphorylation turns on (activates) the kinase. The activated kinase is able to transfer a phosphate group to another protein inside the cell, which is activated as a result. The activation continues through a series of proteins in a signaling pathway. These signaling pathways are important in many cellular processes such as cell growth and division (proliferation) or maturation (differentiation).
Although the specific function of anaplastic lymphoma kinase is unknown, it is thought to act early in development to help regulate the proliferation of nerve cells.
Does the ALK gene share characteristics with other genes?
The ALK gene belongs to a family of genes called CD (CD molecules).
A gene family is a group of genes that share important characteristics. Classifying individual genes into families helps researchers describe how genes are related to each other. For more information, see What are gene families? in the Handbook.
How are changes in the ALK gene related to health conditions?
Genetics Home Reference provides information about lung cancer, which is also associated with changes in the ALK gene.
Where is the ALK gene located?
Cytogenetic Location: 2p23
Molecular Location on chromosome 2: base pairs 29,192,774 to 29,921,611
(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (
The ALK gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 2 at position 23.
More precisely, the ALK gene is located from base pair 29,192,774 to base pair 29,921,611 on chromosome 2.
See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about ALK?
You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about ALK helpful.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for the ALK gene or gene products?
See How are genetic conditions and genes named? in the Handbook.
Where can I find general information about genes?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding ALK?
acids ; amino acid ; arginine ; biomarker ; cancer ; cell ; cell proliferation ; chromosome ; constitutive ; differentiation ; DNA ; familial ; gene ; gene amplification ; glutamine ; inherited ; inversion ; kinase ; lymphoma ; marker ; mutation ; neuroblasts ; oxygen ; pharmacogenetics ; phosphate ; phosphorus ; phosphorylation ; proliferation ; protein ; rearrangement ; receptor ; signal transduction ; sporadic ; transduction ; translocation ; tumor ; tyrosine
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (4 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.