Proline-directed kinases such as the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, cyclin-dependent protein kinase 5 (CDK5) and glycogen synthase 3 (GSK3) have been implicated in the hyperphosphorylation of the tau protein associated with Alzheimer's disease. Such aberrant phosphorylation of tau appears to compromise on its ability to bind to and stabilize microtubules, and this may contribute to Alzheimer's disease pathology. In this review, the architecture of the intracellular signal transduction pathways that regulate proline-directed kinases is described. The MAP kinases serve as major intersection points in the flow of information from a plethora of extracellular stimuli and affect diverse cellular processes that are often important for cell proliferation. Although brain contains terminally differentiated neurons, many of the known components of MAP kinase-dependent lines of communication are highly expressed in the nervous system. Similar signalling pathways may also regulate CDK5 and GSK3. In mitotic cells, abnormal activation of the protein kinase network at multiple points can contribute to oncogenic transformation. It is proposed that Alzheimer's disease may also result from accumulated defects in the kinase network that governs the proline-directed kinases such that their inappropriate activation is sustained in the affected neurons. A detailed understanding of proline-directed kinase-dependent pathways may permit the identification of rational targets for the therapeutic intervention of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders.