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Mol Cell. 2001 Sep;8(3):657-69.

Structure and regulation of the CDK5-p25(nck5a) complex.

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Structural Biology Unit, Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, Via Ripamonti 435, I-20141 Milan, Italy.


CDK5 plays an indispensable role in the central nervous system, and its deregulation is involved in neurodegeneration. We report the crystal structure of a complex between CDK5 and p25, a fragment of the p35 activator. Despite its partial structural similarity with the cyclins, p25 displays an unprecedented mechanism for the regulation of a cyclin-dependent kinase. p25 tethers the unphosphorylated T loop of CDK5 in the active conformation. Residue Ser159, equivalent to Thr160 on CDK2, contributes to the specificity of the CDK5-p35 interaction. Its substitution with threonine prevents p35 binding, while the presence of alanine affects neither binding nor kinase activity. Finally, we provide evidence that the CDK5-p25 complex employs a distinct mechanism from the phospho-CDK2-cyclin A complex to establish substrate specificity.

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