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J Neurochem. 2010 Dec;115(6):1309-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2010.07050.x. Epub 2010 Nov 4.

Regulation and role of cyclin-dependent kinase activity in neuronal survival and death.

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Molecular Neuroscience, Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan.


Cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk)5 is a proline-directed Ser/Thr protein kinase that functions mainly in neurons and is activated by binding to a regulatory subunit, p35 or p39. Kinase activity is mainly determined by the amount of p35 available, which is controlled by a balance between synthesis and degradation. Kinase activity is also regulated by Cdk5 phosphorylation, but the activity of phosphorylated Cdk5 is in contrast to that of cycling Cdks. Cdk5 is a versatile protein kinase that regulates multiple neuronal activities including neuronal migration and synaptic signaling. Further, Cdk5 plays a role in both survival and death of neurons. Long-term inactivation of Cdk5 triggers cell death, and the survival activity of Cdk5 is apparent when neurons suffer from stress. In contrast, hyper-activation of Cdk5 by p25 promotes cell death, probably by reactivating cell-cycle machinery in the nucleus. The pro-death activity is suppressed by membrane association of Cdk5 via myristoylation of p35. Appropriate activity, localization, and regulation of Cdk5 may be critical for long-term survival of neurons, which is more than 80 years in the case of humans.

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