The protein encoded by this gene is a member of the MAP kinase family. MAP kinases act as an integration point for multiple biochemical signals, and are involved in a wide variety of cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, transcription regulation and development. This protein is a neuronal-specific form of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs). Through its phosphorylation and nuclear localization, this kinase plays regulatory roles in the signaling pathways during neuronal apoptosis. Beta-arrestin 2, a receptor-regulated MAP kinase scaffold protein, is found to interact with, and stimulate the phosphorylation of this kinase by MAP kinase kinase 4 (MKK4). Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 can phosphorylate, and inhibit the activity of this kinase, which may be important in preventing neuronal apoptosis. Four alternatively spliced transcript variants encoding distinct isoforms have been reported.
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