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J Cell Sci. 2014 Jun 1;127(Pt 11):2391-400. doi: 10.1242/jcs.147553.

Cdk5 activity in the brain - multiple paths of regulation.

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Department of Chemistry, 560 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
Laboratory of Molecular Neurogenetics, Departments of Psychiatry and of Medical & Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Institute of Psychiatric Research, Neuroscience Research Building, 320 W. 15th St., Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA


Cyclin dependent kinase-5 (Cdk5), a family member of the cyclin-dependent kinases, plays a pivotal role in the central nervous system. During embryogenesis, Cdk5 is indispensable for brain development and, in the adult brain, it is essential for numerous neuronal processes, including higher cognitive functions such as learning and memory formation. However, Cdk5 activity becomes deregulated in several neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease, which leads to neurotoxicity. Therefore, precise control over Cdk5 activity is essential for its physiological functions. This Commentary covers the various mechanisms of Cdk5 regulation, including several recently identified protein activators and inhibitors of Cdk5 that control its activity in normal and diseased brains. We also discuss the autoregulatory activity of Cdk5 and its regulation at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels. We finally highlight physiological and pathological roles of Cdk5 in the brain. Specific modulation of these protein regulators is expected to provide alternative strategies for the development of effective therapeutic interventions that are triggered by deregulation of Cdk5.


Alzheimer’s disease; Axonal growth; Cdk; Cdk5; Cyclins; Excitotoxicity; Learning and memory; Neurodegeneration; Neuronal migration; Pain signalling; Synaptic plasticity; Synaptogenesis; p25; p35; β-Amyloid

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