Argyrophilic grain disease constitutes one cause of late-onset dementia. Its classification among dementia disorders is still unclear because most of the reported argyrophilic grain disease cases are associated with neurofibrillary lesions (e.g. neurofibrillary tangles) which are also typical of Alzheimer's disease. In the present study we determine whether argyrophilic grain disease is associated with the senile plaques of Alzheimer's disease. The distribution and density of senile plaques was systematically investigated in 11 demented argyrophilic grain disease cases using Abeta immunohistochemistry and stereological techniques, and the results were compared with 11 Alzheimer's disease cases. All subjects with argyrophilic grain disease exhibited neurofibrillary changes corresponding to Braak stages I-III. Three of the 11 argyrophilic grain disease cases (27%) were completely devoid of Abeta deposits. In argyrophilic grain disease cases with senile plaques, the average total plaque-load was significantly lower (1%) than in Alzheimer's disease (3.1%) (P<0. 005). The regional distribution of the senile plaques and the proportion of diffuse vs. primitive or mature plaques in argyrophilic grain disease resembled values of senile plaques reported in non-demented elderly subjects, and was significantly different from Alzheimer's disease. Similarly the immunocytochemical profile of the Abeta deposition in argyrophilic grain disease resembled that of non-demented elderly subjects rather than that of subjects with Alzheimer's disease. As all argyrophilic grain disease cases under investigation were demented, including those devoid of senile plaques, the present study further supports the thesis that dementia in argyrophilic grain disease correlates more with the density and distribution of argyrophilic grains than with associated lesions of the Alzheimer-type.