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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Cdk5: a therapeutic target for the treatment of motor and cognitive deficits in Huntington's disease

Lead Researcher:
Silvia Ginés Padrós

Research Centre:
Universidad de Barcelona.


Silvia Ginés PadrósHuntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that mainly causes motor alterations due to the dysfunction and selective degeneration of the GABAergic neurons of the corpus striatum. Nevertheless, cognitive defects are observed in the initial phases of the disease and even years before the appearance of the classical motor symptoms. There is currently no treatment to prevent or cure the disease, or to stop it from progressing. The main aim of this project is to identify new therapeutic targets which may be able to treat the motor deficits as well as the cognitive disorders intrinsic to this disease. Cdk5 is a multifunctional kinase that may take part in a broad range of neuronal functions, from neuron growth to synaptic plasticity and cell survival. Increases in the activity of this kinase have been associated with the processes of neuron death characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. In accordance with this pro-apoptotic role of Cdk5, the research group recently demonstrated that mutated huntingtin induces an overactivation of Cdk5 which in turn is responsible for the increased striatal susceptibility to glutamatergic and dopaminergic activation. Recent studies have also shown that Cdk5 activity is critical for learning processes and synaptic plasticity. Therefore, an aberrant activation of Cdk5 has been associated with cognitive deficits in different murine models. As a whole, these studies show Cdk5 to be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of the motor and cognitive deficits in Huntington's disease. To this end, therapies aimed at inhibiting its activity may be beneficial for the treatment of this disease. Nevertheless, given the dual role of this kinase in the development and function of the nervous system as well as in neuronal death, the total inhibition of its activity may have harmful effects. It is therefore of crucial importance to define the molecular mechanisms by which mutated huntingtin induces the deregulation of its activity, as well as those Cdk5 targets which contribute to the pathology of the disease in the corpus striatum as well as in the hippocampus. The chief interest is to design a pharmacological therapy for both disorders with Cdk5 as its target, with the clear possibility of a clinical application in the treatment of patients with Huntington's and other neurological diseases.

This project proposes to:

  • Determine the molecular mechanisms by which Cdk5 increases striatal vulnerability in knock-in murine models of HD.
  • Analyse the role of Cdk5 in synaptic plasticity and cognitive deficits in knock-in murine models of HD, validating Cdk5 as a therapeutic target in HD.
  • Examine the efficacy of drugs which directly or indirectly inhibit the Cdk5 route to delay, improve or reverse motor and/or cognitive deficits in knock-in murine models of HD.


  • Dopaminergic activation via the D1 dopamine receptor induces more death in striate cells that express mutated huntingtin than in those that express wild-type huntingtin.
  • The increased susceptibility to dopaminergic activation of mutated cells is associated with greater mitochondrial fragmentation.
  • The greater mitochondrial fragmentation observed in mutated cells is induced by an aberrant activation of Cdk5 kinase, given that the pharmacological inhibition of Cdk5 totally prevents mitochondrial fragmentation and with this, cell death.

Scientific production
2 papers at international conferences

Researcher's web address:

Silvia Ginés Padrós

  • Name: Silvia Gines Padrós
  • Birth date: 09/08/1972
  • Position title: Associate Professor


  • 1995 Graduate, Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Barcelona
  • 2000 PhD, Biochemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Barcelona

Positions and employment:

  • 2000-2004: Postdoctoral fellowship. Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School. Boston. USA
  • 2004-2009 Investigador Ramón y Cajal. Department of Cell Biology and Pathology (now: Dept. of Cell Biology, Immunology and Neurosciences), Faculty of Medicine, University of Barcelona
  • 2009 Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Pathology (now: Dept. of Cell Biology, Immunology and Neurosciences), Faculty of Medicine, University of Barcelona.

Honors and awards:

  • 1996-1997 University of Barcelona pre-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. University of Barcelona, under the supervision of Dr. R. Franco/C. Lluis.
  • Catalonian Regional Government pre-doctoral fellowship "Predoctoral scholarship programme for the training of researchers in the general research promotion programme"

Supervision of PhD students:
P. Paoletti. 2010; M. Puigdellivol, ongoing; M. Cherubini, ongoing.

Postdoctoral advisor:
M. Rifé (2006-2008); V. Brito (since 2008).

Ongoing Research Support:

  • Study of the potential crosstalk between the dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems as a therapeutic approach in mouse models of Huntington´s disease: Role of the Cdk5 pathway. Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. Silvia Gines (PI); 2009-2012; SAF2009-07077
  • Role of p75 neurotrophin receptor in Huntington´s disease pathology. Discovery Initiative: CHDI (USA). Silvia Ginés (PI).2010-2012 A-3758
  • Role of Cdk5 in striatal and hippocampal pathology in Huntington disease. Discovery Initiative: CHDI (USA). Silvia Ginés (PI); 2010-2012. A-3880
  • CIBERNED (Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas). Fondo de Investigaciones Sanitarias. Instituto de Salud Carlos III. Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain). J. Alberch (PI). 2007-2011. CB06/05/0054. Role: Co-investigator.
  • Cell Therapy Network (Health-Related Co-operative Thematic Networks, RETICS). Health Research Fund. King Charles III Health Institute. Ministry of Science and Innovation (Spain). JM Canals (PI). 2007-2011. RD06/0010/0006. Role: Co-investigator.

5 publications selected from 21 peer-reviewed publications (18 original articles and 3 invited reviews).

  1. Paoletti P, Vila I, Rifé M, Lizcano JM, Alberch J, Ginés S. "Dopaminergic and glutamatergic signaling crosstalk in Huntington's disease neurodegeneration: the role of p25/cyclin-dependent kinase 5." J Neurosci. 2008, 28(40):10090-101.
  2. Ginés S, Paoletti P, Alberch J. "Impaired TrkB-mediated ERK1/2 activation in huntington disease knock-in striatal cells involves reduced p52/p46 Shc expression." J Biol Chem. 2010, 285(28):21537-48.
  3. Blázquez C, Chiarlone A, Sagredo O, Aguado T, Pazos MR, Resel E, Palazuelos J, Julien B, Salazar M, Börner C, Benito C, Carrasco C, Diez-Zaera M, Paoletti P, Díaz-Hernández M, Ruiz C, Sendtner M, Lucas JJ, de Yébenes JG, Marsicano G, Monory K, Lutz B, Romero J, Alberch J, Ginés S, Kraus J, Fernández-Ruiz J, Galve-Roperh I, Guzmán M. "Loss of striatal type 1 cannabinoid receptors is a key pathogenic factor in Huntington's disease." Brain. 2011, 134(Pt 1):119-36
  4. Almajano MP, Vila I, Gines S. "Neuroprotective effects of white tea against oxidative stress-induced toxicity in striatal cells". Neurotox Res. 2011, 20(4):372-8.
  5. A. Giralt; M. Puigdellivol; O. Carreton; P. Paoletti; J. Valero; A. Parra; C. A. Saura; J. Alberch; S. Gines. "Long-term memory deficits in Huntington's disease are associated with reduced CBP histone acetylase activity." Human Molecular Genetics. 2011; doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr552

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