Expression of low molecular weight (LMW) isoforms of cyclin E is a strong predictor of poor outcome in patients with breast cancer. The purpose of this study was to examine the expression of full-length and LMW cyclin E in bladder cancer cell lines and patient tumors. We used western blotting, immunoprecipitation and kinase assays to examine the expression and activity of key cell cycle-regulatory proteins in various human bladder cell lines, both tumorigenic and non-tumorigenic. We also analyzed cyclin E expression, kinase activity and immune complex binding partners in 43 tissue samples from grade 2 and 3 transitional cell carcinomas. Cyclin E was overexpressed and LMW isoforms were present only in bladder cancer cells. Overexpression of LMW isoforms of cyclin E and increased cyclin E kinase activity were both significantly associated with tumorigenicity of the bladder cell lines (p = 0.005 and 0.022, respectively). Binding of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p21 and p27 to LMW cyclin E did not inhibit the kinase activity of cyclin E and cyclin-dependent kinase 2 in primary tumor samples overexpressing LMW cyclin E. Full-length and LMW cyclin E were significantly overexpressed in grade 3 tumors compared with grade 2 tumors (p = 0.004). Finally, LMW cyclin E levels were significantly associated with a non-papillary growth pattern (p = 0.031) and invasiveness (p = 0.021) of the bladder tumors and poor overall survival (p = 0.06). These results suggest that LMW cyclin E can be used as a new prognostic marker for bladder cancer.