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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May 30;103(22):8534-9. Epub 2006 May 22.

Microtubule affinity-regulating kinase 2 functions downstream of the PAR-3/PAR-6/atypical PKC complex in regulating hippocampal neuronal polarity.

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Institute of Neuroscience and Key Laboratory of Neurobiology, Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 320 Yue Yang Road, Shanghai 200031, China.


The PAR-3/PAR-6/atypical PKC (aPKC) complex is required for axon-dendrite specification of hippocampal neurons. However, the downstream effectors of this complex are not well defined. In this article, we report a role for microtubule affinity-regulating kinase (MARK)/PAR-1 in axon-dendrite specification. Knocking down MARK2 expression with small interfering RNAs induced formation of multiple axon-like neurites and promoted axon outgrowth. Ectopic expression of MARK2 caused phosphorylation of tau (S262) and led to loss of axons, and this phenotype was rescued by expression of PAR-3, PAR-6, and aPKC. In contrast, the polarity defects caused by an MARK2 mutant (T595A), which is not responsive to aPKC, were not rescued by the PAR-3/PAR-6/aPKC complex. Moreover, polarity was abrogated in neurons overexpressing a mutant of MARK2 with a deleted kinase domain but an intact aPKC-binding domain. Finally, suppression of MARK2 rescued the polarity defects induced by a dominant-negative aPKC mutant. These results suggest that MARK2 is involved in neuronal polarization and functions downstream of the PAR-3/PAR-6/aPKC complex. We propose that aPKC in complex with PAR-3/PAR-6 negatively regulates MARK(s), which in turn causes dephosphorylation of microtubule-associated proteins, such as tau, leading to the assembly of microtubules and elongation of axons.

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