Neuron-like PC12 cells are extensively used in place of neurons in published studies. Aim of this paper has been to compare mRNA and protein expressions of cell cycle markers; cyclinA, B, D, E; Cdk1, 2 and 4; and p27 in post-mitotic primary hippocampal neurons, mitotically active PC12 cells and NGF-differentiated post-mitotic PC12 cells. Contrary to PC12 cells, in neurons, the presence of all these markers was detected only at mRNA level; except for cyclinA, cyclinE and Cdk4, which were detectable also at protein levels. In both NGF-treated PC12 cells and neurons, cyclinE was localized only in the nucleus. In NGF-treated PC12 cells cyclinD and Cdk4 were localized in the nucleus while, in neurons cyclinD expression was not detectable; Cdk4 was localized in the cytoplasm. In neurons, cyclinA was nuclear, whereas in NGF-treated PC12 cells, it was localized in the cell body and along the processes. These results suggest that PC12 cells and primary neurons are different in terms of cell cycle protein expressions and localizations. Thus, it may not be very appropriate to use these cells as neuronal model system in order to understand neuronal physiological activities, upstream of where may lie cell cycle activation triggered events. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.