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Genes Dev. 1997 Jun 1;11(11):1409-21.

The role of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 and a novel regulatory subunit in regulating muscle differentiation and patterning.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 5, coupled with its activator p35, is required for normal neuronal differentiation and patterning. We have isolated a novel member of the p35 family, Xp35.1, from Xenopus embryos which can activate cdk5. Xp35.1 is expressed in both proliferating and differentiated neural and mesodermal cells and is particularly high in developing somites where cdk5 is also expressed. Using dominant-negative cdk5 (cdk5 DN), we show that cdk5 kinase activity is required for normal somitic muscle development; expression of cdk5 DN results in disruption of somitic muscle patterning, accompanied by stunting of the embryos. Using explants of animal pole tissue from blastula embryos, which will differentiate into mesoderm in response to activin, we show that blocking cdk5 kinase activity down-regulates the expression of the muscle marker muscle actin in response to activin, whereas the pan-mesodermal marker Xbra is unaffected. Expression of MyoD and MRF4 (master regulators of myogenesis) is suppressed in the presence of cdk5 DN, indicating that these myogenic genes may be a target for cdk5 regulation, whereas the related factor Myf5 is largely unaffected. In addition, overexpression of Xp35.1 disrupts muscle organization. Thus, we have demonstrated a novel role for cdk5 in regulating myogenesis in the early embryo.

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