The molecular factors regulating adult neurogenesis must be understood to harness the therapeutic potential of neuronal stem cells. Although cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) plays a critical role in embryonic corticogenesis, its function in adult neurogenesis is unknown. Here, we assessed the role of Cdk5 in the generation of dentate gyrus (DG) granule cell neurons in adult mice. Cre recombinase-mediated conditional knockout (KO) of Cdk5 from stem cells and their progeny in the DG subgranular zone (SGZ) prevented maturation of new neurons. In addition, selective KO of Cdk5 from mature neurons throughout the hippocampus reduced the number of immature neurons. Furthermore, Cdk5 gene deletion specifically from DG granule neurons via viral-mediated gene transfer also resulted in fewer immature neurons. In each case, the total number of proliferating cells was unaffected, indicating that Cdk5 is necessary for progression of adult-generated neurons to maturity. This role for Cdk5 in neurogenesis was activating-cofactor specific, as p35 KO but not p39 KO mice also had fewer immature neurons. Thus, Cdk5 has an essential role in the survival, but not proliferation, of adult-generated hippocampal neurons through both cell-intrinsic and cell-extrinsic mechanisms. © 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA.