In the nervous system, many intracellular responses to elevated calcium are mediated by CaM kinases (CaMKs), a family of protein kinases whose activities are initially modulated by binding Ca2+/calmodulin and subsequently by protein phosphorylation. One member of this family, CaMKII, is well-established for its effects on modulating synaptic plasticity and learning and memory. However, recent studies indicate that some actions on neuronal development and function attributed to CaMKII may instead or in addition be mediated by other members of the CaMK cascade, such as CaMKK, CaMKI, and CaMKIV. This review summarizes key neuronal functions of the CaMK cascade in signal transduction, gene transcription, synaptic development and plasticity, and behavior. The technical challenges of mapping cellular protein kinase signaling pathways are also discussed.
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