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Cell Growth & Differentiation Vol. 12, 277-283, June 2001
© 2001 American Association for Cancer Research


Review

Cdk5 on the Brain

Deanna S. Smith1, Paul L. Greer and Li-Huei Tsai

Department of Pathology [D. S. S., P. L. G., L-H. T.] and Howard Hughes Medical Institute [L-H. T.], Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Mammalian brains are highly compartmentalized into groups of functionally specialized neurons. Cell migration and neurite outgrowth must be tightly orchestrated to achieve this level of organization. A small serine/threonine kinase that shows homology to cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks) has emerged as an important regulator of neuronal migration. Cdk5, unlike other Cdks, is not regulated by cyclins, and its activity is primarily detected in postmitotic neurons in developing and adult nervous systems. This review describes work indicating that Cdk5 links extracellular signaling pathways and cytoskeletal/membrane systems to direct neuronal migration, axon growth, and possibly neurosecretion. Despite its importance, unchecked Cdk5 activity is toxic to neurons, and may underlie some of the pathologies associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.




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