Tale of the Good and the Bad Cdk5: Remodeling of the Actin Cytoskeleton in the Brain

Mol Neurobiol. 2018 Apr;55(4):3426-3438. doi: 10.1007/s12035-017-0525-3. Epub 2017 May 13.


Cdk5 kinase, a cyclin-dependent kinase family member, is a key regulator of cytoskeletal remodeling in the brain. Cdk5 is essential for brain development during embryogenesis. After birth, it is essential for numerous neuronal processes such as learning and memory formation, drug addiction, pain signaling, and long-term behavior changes, all of which rely on rapid alterations in the cytoskeleton. Cdk5 activity is deregulated in various brain disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and ischemic stroke, resulting in profound remodeling of the neuronal cytoskeleton, loss of synapses, and ultimately neurodegeneration. This review focuses on the "good and bad" Cdk5 in the brain and its pleiotropic contribution in regulating neuronal actin cytoskeletal remodeling. A vast majority of physiological and pathological Cdk5 substrates are associated with the actin cytoskeleton. Thus, our special emphasis is on the numerous Cdk5 substrates identified in the past two decades such as ephexin1, p27, Mst3, CaMKv, kalirin-7, RasGRF2, Pak1, WAVE1, neurabin-1, TrkB, 5-HT6R, talin, drebrin, synapsin I, synapsin III, CRMP1, GKAP, SPAR, PSD-95, and LRRK2. These substrates have unraveled the molecular mechanisms by which Cdk5 plays divergent roles in regulating neuronal actin cytoskeletal dynamics both in healthy and diseased states.

Keywords: 5-HT6R; Actin; Alzheimer’s disease; Axonal growth; CRMP1; CaMKv; Cdk; Cdk5; Cyclins; Dendritic spines; Drebrin; Drug addiction; Ephexin1; GKAP; Kalirin-7; LRRK2; Learning and memory; Microtubules; Mst3; Neurabin-1; Neurodegeneration; Neuronal cytoskeleton; Neuronal migration; Neurotransmitters; PSD-95; Pak1; Parkinson’s disease; RasGRF2; Remodeling; SPAR; Synapsin I; Synapsin III; Synaptic plasticity; Synaptogenesis; Talin; TrkB; WAVE1; p25; p35; β-Amyloid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5