LIM kinases are attractive targets with many macromolecular partners and only a few small molecule regulators


  • Dedicated to Maurizio Botta, who has devoted many efforts to find new small molecule modulators of kinases, on the occasion of his 60th anniversary.

Correspondence to: Fabrizio Manetti, Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico Tecnologico, Università degli Studi di Siena, via Alcide de Gasperi 2, I-53100 Siena, Italy, E-mail:


The LIM kinases 1 and 2 (LIMK1 and LIMK2) are dual specificity (serine/threonine and tyrosine) kinases. Although they show significant structural similarity, LIMK1 and LIMK2 show different expression, subcellular localization, and functions. They are involved in many cellular functions, such as migration, cycle, and neuronal differentiation and also have a role in pathological processes, such as cancer cell invasion and metastatis, as well as in neurodevelopmental disorders (namely, the William's syndrome). LIM kinases have a relevant number of known partners that are able to induce or limit the ability of LIMK1 and LIMK2 to phosphorylate and inactivate their major substrate, cofilin. On the contrary, only a limited number of small molecules that interact with the two proteins to modulate their kinase activity have been identified. In this review, the most important partners of LIM kinases and their modulating activity toward LIMKs are described. The small compounds identified as LIMK1 and LIMK2 modulators are also reported, as well as their role as possible therapeutic agents for LIMK-induced diseases.