Neurosin, a novel type of trypsin-like serine protease, has been shown to be preferentially expressed in human brain by northern blotting. We examined neurosin immunolabeling in the brains of neurologically normal persons and patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and with Parkinson's disease. We also identified the expression of the mRNA for neurosin by in situ hybridization histochemistry and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The neurosin antibody stained all of the nuclei of various cell types. In neurons, there was also staining of neuronal cytoplasm, nucleoli and their processes. In AD, staining of neurons with processes was rare in the damaged areas. Some senile plaques, extracellular tangles and Lewy bodies were also positive for neurosin. Expression of the mRNA for neurosin was seen in neurons in the gray matter, and in microglial cells in the white matter. In AD, the intensity of the signal for neurosin mRNA in the gray matter was decreased compared with normal control brains. The relative levels of neurosin mRNA in AD brains, measured by RT-PCR, were lower than those in controls. These results suggest that in human brain neurosin plays various physiological roles, and that in AD this molecule, like other serine proteases, may have a role in the degradation of such substances as beta-amyloid protein.