Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) and their inhibitors (CDKIs) play pivotal roles in the regulation of the cell cycle. As a result of these functions, it may be extrapolated that they are essential for appropriate embryonic development. The twenty known mouse CDKs and eight CDKIs have been studied to varying degrees in the developing mouse, but only a handful of CDKs and a single CDKI have been shown to be absolutely required for murine embryonic development. What has become apparent, as more studies have shone light on these family members, is that in addition to their primary functional role in regulating the cell cycle, many of these genes are also controlling specific cell fates by directing differentiation in various tissues. Here we review the extensive mouse models that have been generated to study the functions of CDKs and CDKIs, and discuss their varying roles in murine embryonic development, with a particular focus on the brain, pancreas and fertility.
Keywords: CDK inhibitors; cyclin-dependent kinase; development; knock-out models; mouse.