Deposition of fibrillar amyloid beta (fAbeta) plays a critical role in Alzheimer's disease (AD). We have shown recently that fAbeta-induced dystrophy requires the activation of focal adhesion proteins and the formation of aberrant focal adhesion structures, suggesting the activation of a mechanism of maladaptative plasticity in AD. Focal adhesions are actin-based structures that provide a structural link between the extracellular matrix and the cytoskeleton. To gain additional insight in the molecular mechanism of neuronal degeneration in AD, here we explored the involvement of LIM kinase 1 (LIMK1), actin-depolymerizing factor (ADF), and cofilin in Abeta-induced dystrophy. ADF/cofilin are actin-binding proteins that play a central role in actin filament dynamics, and LIMK1 is the kinase that phosphorylates and thereby inhibits ADF/cofilin. Our data indicate that treatment of hippocampal neurons with fAbeta increases the level of Ser3-phosphorylated ADF/cofilin and Thr508-phosphorylated LIMK1 (P-LIMK1), accompanied by a dramatic remodeling of actin filaments, neuritic dystrophy, and neuronal cell death. A synthetic peptide, S3 peptide, which acts as a specific competitor for ADF/cofilin phosphorylation by LIMK1, inhibited fAbeta-induced ADF/cofilin phosphorylation, preventing actin filament remodeling and neuronal degeneration, indicating the involvement of LIMK1 in Abeta-induced neuronal degeneration in vitro. Immunofluorescence analysis of AD brain showed a significant increase in the number of P-LIMK1-positive neurons in areas affected with AD pathology. P-LIMK1-positive neurons also showed early signs of AD pathology, such as intracellular Abeta and pretangle phosphorylated tau. Thus, LIMK1 activation may play a key role in AD pathology.