Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (cdk5) is a ubiquitous protein activated by neuron-specific activators, p35 and p39. Cdk5 regulates neuronal migration, differentiation, axonogenesis, synaptic transmission and apoptosis. However, its role in primary neurogenesis remains unexplored. Here, we have cloned and characterized the zebrafish cdk5 ortholog. Zebrafish cdk5 is 96% identical to its human counterpart. In situ hybridization analyses demonstrated that zebrafish cdk5 transcripts are ubiquitously expressed as early as the blastula stage. At 11.5h of development, cdk5 transcripts were present in the neural plate at the domains where primary neurons begin to be specified. RT-PCR analyses showed equal levels of cdk5 transcripts up to 72 h of development. SiRNA-mediated cdk5 knockdown resulted in a reduction in primary sensory neurons of the trigeminal ganglia of the peripheral nervous system, suggesting that cdk5 plays a crucial role in the development of the peripheral nervous system.