The brain is the exclusive or almost exclusive site of formation of 24S-hydroxycholesterol and we have shown that the circulating level of 24S-hydroxycholesterol is dependent upon the relation between cerebral production and hepatic clearance. In the present work we determined plasma levels of 24S-hydroxycholesterol in patients with various neurological diseases. Eleven subjects with brain death occurring 6-10 h before collection of the plasma samples had markedly reduced circulating levels of 24S-hydroxycholesterol (-43%, P<0.001). Patients with advanced Alzheimer's disease and cerebral inflammatory diseases had slightly lower levels of 24S-hydroxycholesterol in plasma when compared to matched controls. Patients with acute ischemic stroke, multiple sclerosis and primary brain tumors had levels not significantly different from those of controls. The conditions leading to reduced plasma levels of 24S-hydroxycholesterol had no significant effect on plasma levels of another side-chain oxidized oxysterol, 27-hydroxycholesterol. Except for conditions characterized by very marked destruction of the central nervous system, different severe neurological diseases seem to have relatively small effects on the flux of 24S-hydroxycholesterol from the brain.