Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of neurodegenerative disorder of later life. Genetic studies have demonstrated that the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene is an important susceptibility locus; however, other environmental and genetic factors operating alone or in combination with ApoE must also be involved. Among candidate genes that may contribute to this residual risk is the endothelial nitric oxide synthase (NOS3) gene. NO release from vascular endothelium accounts in large part for endothelium-derived relaxing factor bioactivity. Abnormalities of cerebral small vessels occur early in AD, and it has been demonstrated recently that beta-amyloid interacts with endothelial cells in blood vessels to produce an excess of superoxide radicals. We have genotyped 122 cases of early-onset AD (EOAD) and 317 cases of late-onset AD (LOAD) as well as 392 controls for a common structural polymorphism Glu/Asp at codon 298 in the NOS3 gene. We find a highly significant enrichment for Glu/Glu homozygotes in LOAD compared with controls. The effect appears to be independent of ApoE status. NOS3 may be a new genetic risk factor for LOAD.