Neurofibrillary tangles, which are major pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD), are composed of paired helical filaments (PHFs) containing hyperphosphorylated tau. Specific kinases regulate tau phosphorylation and are closely linked to the pathogenesis of AD. We have characterized a human tau-tubulin kinase 1 (TTBK1) gene located on chromosome 6p21.1. TTBK1 is a serine/threonine/tyrosine kinase that is conserved among species and belongs to the casein kinase 1 superfamily. It is specifically expressed in the brain, especially in the cytoplasm of cortical and hippocampal neurons. TTBK1 phosphorylates tau proteins in both a Mg2+- and a Mn2+-dependent manner. Phosphopeptide mapping and immunoblotting analysis confirmed a direct tau phosphorylation by TTBK1 at Ser198, Ser199, Ser202 and Ser422, which are also phosphorylated in PHFs. TTBK1 also induces tau aggregation in human neuronal cells in a dose-dependent manner. We conclude that TTBK1 is a neuron-specific dual kinase involved in tau phosphorylation at AD-related sites and is also associated with tau aggregation.