UMMS Affiliation

Department of Cell Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; COS Cells; Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 5; Cyclin-Dependent Kinases; Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins; Ion Channels; Macromolecular Substances; Membrane Proteins; Mice; Mice, Knockout; Mutagenesis, Site-Directed; Nerve Tissue Proteins; Neuronal Plasticity; Neurons; Phosphorylation; Protein Structure, Tertiary; Rats; Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate; Structure-Activity Relationship; Substrate Specificity; Synapses


Cell Biology


PSD-95 (postsynaptic density 95) is a postsynaptic scaffolding protein that links NMDA receptors to the cytoskeleton and signaling molecules. The N-terminal domain of PSD-95 is involved in the synaptic targeting and clustering of PSD-95 and in the clustering of NMDA receptors at synapses. The N-terminal domain of PSD-95 contains three consensus phosphorylation sites for cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (cdk5), a proline-directed serine-threonine kinase essential for brain development and implicated in synaptic plasticity, dopamine signaling, cocaine addiction, and neurodegenerative disorders. We report that PSD-95 is phosphorylated in the N-terminal domain by cdk5 in vitro and in vivo, and that this phosphorylation is not detectable in brain lysates of cdk5-/- mice. N-terminal phosphorylated PSD-95 is found in PSD fractions together with cdk5 and its activator, p35, suggesting a role for phosphorylated PSD-95 at synapses. In heterologous cells, coexpression of active cdk5 reduces the ability of PSD-95 to multimerize and to cluster neuronal ion channels, two functions attributed to the N-terminal domain of PSD-95. Consistent with these observations, the lack of cdk5 activity in cultured neurons results in larger clusters of PSD-95. In cdk5-/- cortical neurons, more prominent PSD-95 immunostained clusters are observed than in wild-type neurons. In hippocampal neurons, the expression of DNcdk5 (inactive form of cdk5) or of the triple alanine mutant (T19A, S25A, S35A) full-length PSD-95 results in increased PSD-95 cluster size. These results identify cdk5-dependent phosphorylation of the N-terminal domain of PSD-95 as a novel mechanism for regulating the clustering of PSD-95. Moreover, these observations support the possibility that cdk5-dependent phosphorylation of PSD-95 dynamically regulates the clustering of PSD-95/NMDA receptors at synapses, thus providing a possible mechanism for rapid changes in density and/or number of receptor at synapses.

DOI of Published Version



J Neurosci. 2004 Jan 28;24(4):865-76. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


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Cell Biology Commons