Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by a progressive degeneration of neurons along with deposition of amyloid plaques and the formation of neurofibrillary tangles. Neurodegeneration in AD follows both a spatial pattern of selective vulnerability and temporal staging of affected neurons. In order to address transcriptional changes associated with this selective vulnerability, we used subtractive hybridization of transcripts derived from human frontal cortex, which degenerates in late stages of AD, against transcripts of the inferior temporal cortex, which is affected both heavily and early in the course of AD. Moreover, we compared these to brain sections obtained from age-matched control subjects. We isolated a differentially expressed novel gene encoding a polypeptide that contained an amino-terminal C3HC4 RING finger domain, called dactylidin. It is ubiquitously expressed in all tissues examined and in situ hybridization of mouse brain sections revealed specific expression in neurons. Further, heterologous expression studies revealed a cytoplasmic localization of dactylidin and as all known cytoplasmic RING finger proteins function as ubiquitin protein ligases, an E3-like ligase function of dactylidin is probable. However, the up-regulation of dactylidin in highly vulnerable brain tissues of AD patients was confirmed by a quantitative PCR approach, suggesting that dactylidin may function early in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.