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Hippocampal Neurons Predisposed to Neurofibrillary Tangle Formation Are Enriched in Type II Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase

Ann C. McKee M.D., Kenneth S. Kosik M.D., Mary B. Kennedy Ph.D., Neil W. Kowall M.D.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00005072-199001000-00006 49-63 First published online: 1 January 1990


The microtubule-associated phosphoprotein, tau, is an integral component of paired helical filaments in Alzheimer neurofibrillary tangles (NFT). The mechanism of NFT formation is unknown but aberrant phosphorylation of tau may be contributory. Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II (CaM kinase II), the most abundant kinase in the brain, phosphorylates tau in vitro. We found CaM kinase II immunoreactivity concentrated in human hippocampal pyramidal neurons of CA1 and the subiculum. In Alzheimer's disease (AD) staining intensity of CA1 and subicular neurons is strikingly increased despite NFT formation and neuronal depletion. Enhanced CaM kinase II activity, possibly a result of deafferentation, may contribute to phosphorylation of tau protein leading to NFT deposition and neuronal death in AD.

Key Words
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II
  • Hip-pocampus
  • Protein kinase
  • Tau protein