To analyze the relationship between the deposition of amyloid beta peptides (Abeta) and neuronal loss in transgenic models of Alzheimer's disease (AD), we examined the frontal neocortex (Fc) and CA1 portion of hippocampus (CA1) in PSAPP mice doubly expressing AD-associated mutant presenilin 1 (PS1) and Swedish-type mutant beta amyloid precursor protein (APPsw) by morphometry of Abeta burden and neuronal counts. Deposition of Abeta was detected as early as 3 months of age in the Fc and CA1 of PSAPP mice and progressed to cover 28.3% of the superior frontal cortex and 18.4% of CA1 at 12 months: approximately 20- (Fc) and approximately 40- (CA1) fold greater deposition than in APPsw mice. There was no significant difference in neuronal counts in either CA1 or the frontal cortex between nontransgenic (non-tg), PS1 transgenic, APPsw, and PSAPP mice at 3 to 12 months of age. In the PSAPP mice, there was disorganization of the neuronal architecture by compact amyloid plaques, and the average number of neurons was 8 to 10% fewer than the other groups (NS, P > 0.10) in CA1 and 2 to 20% fewer in frontal cortex (NS, P = 0.31). There was no loss of total synaptophysin immunoreactivity in the Fc or dentate gyrus molecular layer of the 12-month-old PSAPP mice. Thus, although co-expression of mutant PS1 with Swedish mutant betaAPP leads to marked cortical and limbic Abeta deposition in an age-dependent manner, it does not result in the dramatic neuronal loss in hippocampus and association cortex characteristic of AD.