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Neuronal apoptosis may be partly due to inappropriate control of the cell cycle. We used serum deprivation as stimulus and reduced potassium from 25 to 5 mM (S/K deprivation), which induces apoptosis in cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs), to evaluate the direct correlation between re-entry in the cell cycle and apoptosis. Roscovitine (10 μM), an antitumoral drug that inhibits cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (cdk1), cdk2 and cdk5, showed a significant neuroprotective effect on CGNs deprived of S/K. S/K deprivation induced the expression of cell cycle proteins such as cyclin E, cyclin A, cdk2, cdk4 and E2F-1. It also caused CGNs to enter the S phase of the cell cycle, measured by a significant incorporation of BrdU (30% increase over control cells), which was reduced in the presence of roscovitine (10 μM). On the other hand, roscovitine modified the expression of cytochrome c (Cyt c), Bcl-2 and Bax, which are involved in the apoptotic intrinsic pathway induced by S/K deprivation. We suggest that the antiapoptotic effects of roscovitine on CGNs are due to its anti-proliferative efficacy and to an action on the mitochondrial apoptotic mechanism.