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Cell Death Differ. 2006 Jan;13(1):141-50.

p53, Apaf-1, caspase-3, and -9 are dispensable for Cdk5 activation during cell death.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Queens College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11367, USA.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) is a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase family that is mostly seen in neurons, does not vary with cell cycle, and is activated in many neurodegenerative disorders and other non-neuronal pathologies, but its relationship to non-neuronal apoptosis is not understood, nor is the control of the activation of Cdk5 by its activators. The most widely studied activator of Cdk5, p35, is cleaved to p25 by calpain, an event that has been linked with activation of Cdk5 and neuronal death. Here we report that calpain-mediated Cdk5/p25 activation accompanies non-neuronal as well as neuronal cell death, suggesting that the p35/calpain/p25/Cdk5 activation sequence is a general feature of cell death. We further demonstrate that Cdk5 can be activated in the absence of p53, Apaf-1, caspase-9, and -3 during cell death, indicating that its activation relates more to cell death than to a specific pathway of apoptosis.

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