Physiological Reviews

Physiological Relevance of Cell Cycle Kinases

Marcos Malumbres


The basic biology of the cell division cycle and its control by protein kinases was originally studied through genetic and biochemical studies in yeast and other model organisms. The major regulatory mechanisms identified in this pioneer work are conserved in mammals. However, recent studies in different cell types or genetic models are now providing a new perspective on the function of these major cell cycle regulators in different tissues. Here, we review the physiological relevance of mammalian cell cycle kinases such as cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks), Aurora and Polo-like kinases, and mitotic checkpoint regulators (Bub1, BubR1, and Mps1) as well as other less-studied enzymes such as Cdc7, Nek proteins, or Mastl and their implications in development, tissue homeostasis, and human disease. Among these functions, the control of self-renewal or asymmetric cell division in stem/progenitor cells and the ability to regenerate injured tissues is a central issue in current research. In addition, many of these proteins play previously unexpected roles in metabolism, cardiovascular function, or neuron biology. The modulation of their enzymatic activity may therefore have multiple therapeutic benefits in human disease.

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