Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 67–80 | Cite as

Central nervous system functions of PAK protein family

From spine morphogenesis to mental retardation
  • Bernadett Boda
  • Irina Nikonenko
  • Stefano Alberi
  • Dominique Muller


Several of the genes currently known to be associated, when mutated, with mental retardation, code for molecules directly involved in Rho guanosine triphosphatase (GTPase) signaling. These include PAK3, a member of the PAK protein kinase family, which are important effectors of small GTPases. In many systems, PAK kinases play crucial roles regulating complex mechanisms such as cell migration, differentiation, or survival. Their precise functions in the central nervous system remain, however, unclear. Although their activity does not seem to be required for normal brain development, several recent studies point to a possible involvement in more subtle mechanisms such as neurite outgrowth, spine morphogenesis or synapse formation, and plasticity. This article reviews this information in the light of the current knowledge available on the molecular characteristics of the different members of this family and discuss the mechanisms through which they might contribute to cognitive functions.

Key Words

Rho GTPases synaptic plasticity synaptogenesis cytoskeleton brain development 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernadett Boda
    • 1
  • Irina Nikonenko
    • 1
  • Stefano Alberi
    • 1
  • Dominique Muller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeuroscienceCentre Médical UniversitaireGeneva 4Switzerland

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