Parkinson's disease (PD) is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders affecting about 1% of Western populations older than age 50. The pathological hallmark of PD are Lewy bodies, that is, intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies in affected neurons of the substantia nigra. Recently, alpha-synuclein (alpha-SYN) has been identified as the main component of Lewy bodies in sporadic PD, suggesting involvement in neurodegeneration via protein accumulation. The partially overlapping pathology of PD and Alzheimer's disease, as well as striking structural similarities of alpha-SYN and apolipoprotein E, which is a major risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease, prompted us to investigate the influence of different alpha-SYN and apolipoprotein E alleles for developing sporadic PD. We performed association studies in 193 German PD patients and 200 healthy control subjects matched for age, sex, and origin. A polymorphism in the promoter region of the alpha-SYN gene (NACP-Rep1) as well as of the closely linked DNA markers D4S1647 and D4S1628 revealed significant differences in the allelic distributions between PD patients and the control group. Furthermore, the Apo epsilon4 allele but not the Th1/E47 promoter polymorphism of the apolipoprotein E gene was significantly more frequent among early-onset PD patients (age at onset, <50 years) than in late-onset PD. Regarding the combination of the Apo epsilon4 allele and allele 1 of the alpha-SYN promoter polymorphism, a highly significant difference between the group of PD patients and control individuals has been found, suggesting interactions or combined actions of these proteins in the pathogenesis of sporadic PD. PD patients harboring this genotype have a 12.8-fold increased relative risk for developing PD during their lives.