The two faces of Cdk8, a positive/negative regulator of transcription

Biochimie. 2014 Feb;97:22-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2013.10.004. Epub 2013 Oct 15.


Three cyclin dependent kinases, Cdk7, Cdk8 and Cdk9 are intimately connected with the processes of RNA polymerase II dependent transcription initiation and elongation in eukaryotic cells. Each of these kinases is part of a larger multisubunit complex, TFIIH, Mediator and p-TEFb respectively. Of the three kinases, Cdk8 is the most complex given that it has been associated with both positive and negative effects on transcription via mechanisms that include regulation of transcription factor turnover, regulation of CTD phosphorylation and regulation of activator or repressor function. Furthermore, Cdk8 has emerged as a key regulator of multiple transcriptional programs linked to nutrient/growth factor sensing and differentiation control. As such Cdk8 represents a potentially interesting therapeutic drug target. In this review we summarize the current state of knowledge on Cdk8 function both in yeast and higher eukaryotes as well as discussing the effects of Cdk8 null mutations at the organismal level.

Keywords: Cdk8; Transcription regulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 8 / genetics*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 8 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Schizosaccharomyces / genetics*
  • Schizosaccharomyces / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Transcription Factors
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 8