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Annu Rev Biochem. 2003;72:743-81. Epub 2003 Mar 27.

Biology of the p21-activated kinases.

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Departments of Immunology and Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The p21-activated kinases (PAKs) 1-3 are serine/threonine protein kinases whose activity is stimulated by the binding of active Rac and Cdc42 GTPases. Our understanding of the regulation and biology of these important signaling proteins has increased tremendously since their discovery in the mid-1990s. PAKs 1-3 are activated by a variety of GTPase-dependent and -independent mechanisms. This complexity reflects the contributions of PAK function in many cellular signaling pathways and the need to carefully control PAK action in a highly localized manner. PAKs serve as important regulators of cytoskeletal dynamics and cell motility, transcription through MAP kinase cascades, death and survival signaling, and cell-cycle progression. Consequently, PAKs have also been implicated in a number of pathological conditions and in cell transformation. We propose here a key role for PAK action in coordinating the dynamics of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons during directional motility of cells, as well as in other functions requiring cytoskeletal polarization.

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