We used reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and Western blotting techniques to measure the levels of complement mRNAs and their protein products in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain compared with non-AD brain. mRNAs for C1q, C1r, C1s, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, and C9 were detected in the 11 regions of brain that were investigated. The mRNA levels were markedly up-regulated in affected areas of AD brain. In the entorhinal cortex, hippocampus, and midtemporal gyrus, which had dense accumulations of plaques and tangles, C1q mRNA was increased 11- to 80-fold over control levels, and C9 mRNA 10- to 27-fold. These levels were substantially higher than in the livers of the same cases. Western blot analysis of AD hippocampus established the presence of all of the native complement proteins as well as their activation products C4d, C3d, and the membrane attack complex. These data indicate that high levels of complement are being produced in affected areas of AD brain, that full activation of the classical complement pathway is continuously taking place, and that this activation may be contributing significantly to AD pathology.