Neurofilaments (NFs), the neuron-specific intermediate (i.e. approximately 10-nm diameter) filaments are major cytoskeletal components of most neurons. In a mature mammalian neuron, NFs are co-assembled from three subunits, NF-L (low), NF-M (medium), and NF-H (high), with molecular masses of 68, 95, and 115 kDa, respectively. Neurofilament proteins (NF-Ps), particularly, NF-H, are most extensively phosphorylated in large myelinated axons under normal conditions. This phosphorylation occurs on the serine residues of the lysine (Lys)-serine (Ser)-proline (Pro) (KSP) multiple amino acid repeats of the carboxy-terminal tail domain. Phosphorylation of KSP motifs affects physical, biochemical, and immunological properties of NF-H. For example, phosphorylation is thought to play a pivotal role in the maintenance of the neuronal cytoskeletal structure which influences the conduction velocity of the nerve fiber. The key components responsible for phosphorylation are not known. In this study, an identified cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (cdk5), isolated from nervous tissue, has been shown to phosphorylate the human NF-H (hNF-H) and affects its electrophoretic mobility. On the basis of the following observations, it is suggested that neuronal cdk5 (cdk5) phosphorylates KSPXK motifs in the human high molecular weight neurofilament (hNF-H) and affects its electrophoretic mobility. (1) A 14-mer synthetic peptide (KSPEKAKSPVKEEA) derived from hNF-H; (2) a bacterially expressed protein containing 14 KSPXK multiple repeats of hNF-H in C-terminal tail domain; and (3) a dephosphorylated hNF-H in neurofilament preparation are phosphorylated by cdk5. The decrease in molecular mass of hNF-H caused by dephosphorylated was completely recovered upon cdk5 phosphorylation. It is proposed that neuronal cdk5 regulates phosphorylation of the KSPXK motif in hNF-H and other cytoskeletal proteins with similar motifs in the nervous system.