A tyrosine kinase is an enzyme that can transfer a phosphate group from ATP to a protein in a cell. It functions as an "on" or "off" switch in many cellular functions. Tyrosine kinases are a subclass of protein kinase.
The phosphate group is attached to the amino acid tyrosine on the protein. Tyrosine kinases are a subgroup of the larger class of protein kinases that attach phosphate groups to other amino acids (serine and threonine). Phosphorylation of proteins by kinases is an important mechanism in communicating signals within a cell (signal transduction) and regulating cellular activity, such as cell division. Protein kinases can become mutated, stuck in the "on" position, and cause unregulated growth of the cell, which is a necessary step for the development of cancer. Therefore, kinase inhibitors are often effective cancer treatments.