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J Neurochem. 2011 Jan;116(2):192-204. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2010.06824.x.

Actin interaction and regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase 5/p35 complex activity.

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  • 1Center for Neurodegenerative Disorders, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) plays a critical role during neurodevelopment, synaptic plasticity, and neurodegeneration. Cdk5 activity depends on association with neuronal proteins p35 and p25, a proteolytic product of p35. Cdk5 regulates the actin cytoskeletal dynamics that are essential for neuronal migration, neuritic growth, and synaptogenesis. However, little is known about the interaction of actin and Cdk5 and its effect on neuronal Cdk5 activity. In a previous study, we observed that Cdk5/p35 activity is negatively correlated with co-immunoprecipitated F-actin (filamentous actin) amounts in the mouse brain, and suggested that F-actin inhibits the formation of the Cdk5/p35 complex [Journal of Neuroscience (2008) vol. 28, p. 14511]. The experiments reported here were undertaken to elucidate the relationship between actin and the formation of the Cdk5/p35 complex and its activity. Instead of an F-actin-mediated inhibition, we propose that G-actin (globular actin) in the F-actin preparations is responsible for inhibiting Cdk5/p35 and Cdk5/p25 kinase activity. We found that F-actin binds to p35 but not p25 or Cdk5. We have shown that G-actin binds directly to Cdk5 without disrupting the formation of the Cdk5/p35 or Cdk5/p25 complexes. G-actin potently suppressed Cdk5/p35 and Cdk5/p25 activity when either histone H1 or purified human tau protein were used as substrates, indicating a substrate-independent inhibitory effect of G-actin on Cdk5 activity. Finally, G-actin suppressed the activity of Cdk5 immunoprecipitated from wild type and p35-deficient mouse brain, suggesting that G-actin suppresses endogenous Cdk5 activity in a p35-independent manner. Together, these results suggest a novel mechanism of actin cytoskeletal regulation of Cdk5/p35 activity.

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