Learning and memory are processes by which organisms acquire, retain and retrieve information. They result in modifications of behavior in response to new or previously encountered stimuli thereby enabling adaptation to a permanently changing environment. Protein phosphorylation has long been known to play a key role in triggering synaptic changes underlying learning and memory. Although intracellular phosphorylation and dephosphorylation is orchestrated by a complex network of interactions between a number of protein kinases and phosphatases, significant advances in the understanding of neuronal mechanisms underlying learning and memory have been achieved by investigating the actions of individual molecules under defined experimental conditions, brain areas, neuronal cells and their subcellular compartments. On the basis of these approaches, the cyclic AMP protein kinase (PKA), protein kinase C (PKC) and extracellularly regulated protein kinases 1 and 2 (Erk-1/2) have been identified as the core signaling pathways in memory consolidation. Here we review recent findings demonstrating an important novel role for Cdk5 in learning and memory. We suggest that some of the well-characterized roles of Cdk5 during neurodevelopmental processes, such as interactions with distinct cytoplasmic and synaptic target molecules, may be also involved in synaptic plasticity underlying memory consolidation within the adult central nervous system.

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