Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) activity is dependent on its association with 1 of 2 neuron-specific activators, p35 or p39. Cdk5 and its activators play an important role in brain development as well as higher functions like synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. Reduction in p35 was reported in postmortem schizophrenia brain, in which reduced dendritic spine density was observed. Previous in vitro experiments have shown that Cdk5 is involved in dendritic spine formation, although in vivo evidence is limited. We examined dendritic spine formation in inducible-p35 conditional knockout (p35 cKO); p39 KO mice. When we deleted the p35 gene either during early postnatal days or at adult stage, we observed reduced spine densities of layer V neurons in the cerebral cortex and CA1 pyramidal neurons in the hippocampus. We further generated CA1-specific p35 conditional knockout (CA1-p35 cKO) mice and also CA1-p35 cKO; p39 KO mice in which have specific deletion of p35 in the CA1 region of hippocampus. We found a greater reduction in spine densities in CA1 pyramidal neurons in CA1-p35 cKO; p39 KO mice than in CA1-p35 cKO mice. These results indicate that dendritic spine formation and neuronal maintenance are dependent on Cdk5 activity.
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