Hyperphosphorylation of RNA polymerase II and reduced neuronal RNA levels precede neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer disease

Jacob W. Husseman, Janice L. Hallows, David B. Bregman, James B. Leverenz, David Nochlin, Lee-Way Jin, Inez Vincent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Affected neurons of Alzheimer disease (AD) brain are distinguished by the presence of the cell cycle cdc2 kinase and mitotic phosphoepitopes. A significant body of previous data has documented a decrease in neuronal RNA levels and nucleolar volume in AD brain. Here we present evidence that integrates these seemingly distinct findings and offers an explanation for the degenerative outcome of the disease. During mitosis cdc2 phosphorylates and inhibits the major transcriptional regulator RNA polymerase II (RNAP II). We therefore investigated cdc2 phosphorylation of RNAP II in AD brain. Using the H5 and H14 monoclonal antibodies specific for the cdc2-phosphorylated sites in RNAP II, we found that the polymerase is highly phosphorylated in AD. Moreover, RNAP II in AD translocates from its normally nuclear compartment to the cytoplasm of affected neurons, where it colocalizes with cdc2. These M phase-like changes in RNAP II correlate with decreased levels of poly-A RNA in affected neurons. Significantly, they precede tau phosphorylation and neurofibrillary tangle formation. Our data support the hypothesis that inappropriate activation of the cell cycle cdc2 kinase in differentiated neurons contributes to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration in part by inhibiting RNAP II and cellular processes dependent on transcription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1219-1232
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Cdc2
  • Cell cycle
  • Neurofibrillary tangles
  • RNA polymerase II
  • Tau phosphorylation
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neuroscience(all)


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