Neuronal Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases

Annu Rev Biochem. 1992;61:559-601. doi: 10.1146/


Widespread localization, responsiveness to numerous signal transduction systems, and broad substrate specificity enable the multifunctional CaM kinase to mediate regulation of many cellular functions. The abundance and diversity of CaM kinase substrates attest to its role as a multifunctional kinase. However, expanded identification of its in situ substrates as well as the consequences of their regulation by phosphorylation needs to be accomplished. Recently identified substrates have contributed to the list of potential functions for the CaM kinase. CREB is a hormonally stimulated transcriptional activator, and CaM kinase may lie on the pathway to its activation. This pathway could provide an interface between the potentiation of Ca2+ signals by CaM kinase and longer-term modifications of neuronal gene expression. The ryanodine receptor, as well as phospholamban, are involved in cardiac Ca2+ homeostasis, and their regulation by CaM kinase phosphorylation suggests the possibility of some feedback control of intracellular Ca2+ levels by CaM kinase. Regulation of neuronal plasticity by phosphorylation of synapsin I and of postsynaptic substrates necessary for long-term potentiation is another dynamic area of investigation. The study of substrates and their functions promises to continue providing exciting insights into the control of cellular signalling by Ca2+. Molecular cloning has enabled structural comparison of neuronal isoforms of the kinase, and has revealed the existence of closely related subunits. Subunits identified to data differ substantially only in two small variable domains, yet their expression in various tissues and during the course of development is precisely controlled. What unique properties do these small variable domains impart to the different isoforms? What directs high concentrations of kinase to a particular subcellular localization, and especially to the PSD? Further molecular cloning will undoubtedly determine whether other multifunctional CaM kinases with unique structures and properties exist. Finally, studies on the autoregulatory properties of CaM kinase have provided a fascinating picture of how this molecule can alone encode responses to Ca2+ signals, potentiating both the duration and magnitude of its activity. Autophosphorylation of the Thr286 autonomy site both traps calmodulin and permits Ca(2+)-independent activity after calmodulin dissociates. Further analysis of the role of the holoenzyme structure in these modulations will help clarify remaining mechanistic questions. Studies performed during the past few years have clearly established that this Ca(2+)-independent activity is generated in situ in response to a variety of cell stimuli.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Protein Kinases
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases