The mammalian integumentary system plays important roles in body homeostasis, and dysfunction of melanogenesis or epidermal development may lead to a variety of skin diseases, including melanoma. Skin pigmentation in humans and coat color in fleece-producing animals are regulated by many genes. Among them, microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) and paired-box 3 (PAX3) are at the top of the cascade and regulate activities of many important melanogenic enzymes. Here, we report for the first time that cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) is an essential regulator of MITF and PAX3. Cdk5 knockdown in mice causes a lightened coat color, a polarized distribution of melanin and hyperproliferation of basal keratinocytes. Reduced expression of Keratin 10 (K10) resulting from Cdk5 knockdown may be responsible for an abnormal epidermal structure. In contrast, overexpression of Cdk5 in sheep (Ovis aries) only produces brown patches on a white background, with no other observable abnormalities. Collectively, our findings show that Cdk5 has an important functional role in the regulation of melanin production and transportation and in normal development of the integumentary system.