Tsai studies how Cdk5 activity affects brain development, learning, and memory.
Cdk5 is a kinase expressed mainly in neurons, where it helps regulate the activity of a whole host of downstream targets, including ion channels and synaptic scaffold proteins. Thus, it’s perhaps to be expected that Cdk5 dysregulation is associated with many neuropathologies.
Li-Huei Tsai cloned Cdk5 as a postdoc and decided she wanted to study it further in her own lab. When asked during job interviews what she would do if Cdk5 wasn’t involved in any interesting phenotypes, she replied that she would no doubt find something else interesting to study. She was soon hired on at Harvard. As it turns out, though, Cdk5 (and its regulation) is plenty interesting, as we learned when we called her at her current lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.