The association of inheritance of different apolipoprotein E (APOE, gene; apoE, protein) alleles with the risk and rate of onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is now well established and widely confirmed. While there are now a collection of hypotheses concerning the specific relationship of APOE polymorphisms to various phenotypic manifestations of AD, no single compelling theory has been tested and universally accepted. The only clear fact emerging during the past 6 years is that differences in APOE genotype affect the average rate of disease onset as a predictable function of the inheritance of this polymorphic gene. Methods now exist to enable experimental designs to study the metabolic effects of inheriting different APOE alleles, addressing what differences that may be present for many years, perhaps over the entire lifetime, can lead to earlier or later manifestations of the disease and are therapeutically tractable. This review summarizes part of an experimental approach to identify biological pathways influenced by the different APOE polymorphisms that are relevant to the pathogenesis of AD.