Much has been learned about the activity-dependent synaptic modifications that are thought to underlie memory storage, but the mechanism by which these modifications are stored remains unclear. A good candidate for the storage mechanism is Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaM kinase II). CaM kinase II is one of the most prominent protein kinases, present in essentially every tissue but most concentrated in brain. Although it has been about a quarter of a century since the finding, CaM kinase II has been of the major interest in the region of brain science. It plays a multifunctional role in many intracellular events, and the expression of the enzyme is carefully regulated in brain regions and during brain development. Neuronal CaM kinase II regulates important neuronal functions, including neurotransmitter synthesis, neurotransmitter release, modulation of ion channel activity, cellular transport, cell morphology and neurite extension, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, and gene expression. Studies concerning this kinase have provided insight into the molecular basis of nerve functions, especially learning and memory, and indicate one direction for studies in the field of neuroscience. This review presents the molecular structure, properties and functions of CaM kinase II, as a major component of neurons, based mainly developed on findings made in our laboratory.
2005 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan