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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 11;273(37):24057-64.

p35, the neuronal-specific activator of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) is degraded by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) was originally isolated by its close homology to the human CDC2 gene, which is a key regulator of cell cycle progression. However, unlike other Cdks, the activity of Cdk5 is required in post-mitotic neurons. The neuronal-specific p35 protein, which shares no homology to cyclins, was identified by virtue of its association and activation of Cdk5. Gene targeting studies in mice have shown that the p35/Cdk5 kinase is required for the proper neuronal migration and development of the mammalian cortex. We have investigated the regulation of the p35/Cdk5 kinase. Here we show that p35, the activator of Cdk5, is a short-lived protein with a half-life (t1/2) of 20 to 30 min. Specific proteasome inhibitors such as lactacystin greatly stabilize p35 in vivo. Ubiquitination of p35 can be readily demonstrated in vitro and in vivo. Inhibition of Cdk5 activity by a specific Cdk inhibitor, roscovitine, or by overexpression of a dominant negative mutant of Cdk5 increases the stability of p35 by 2- to 3-fold. Furthermore, phosphorylation mutants of p35 also stabilize p35 2- to 3-fold. Together, these observations demonstrate that the p35/Cdk5 kinase can be subject to rapid turnover in vivo and suggest that phosphorylation of p35 upon Cdk5 kinase activation plays a autoregulatory role in p35 degradation mediated by ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis.

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