Pathologic examination in Alzheimer's disease (AD) shows a significant correlation between beta-amyloid peptide (AbetaP) deposition and the clinical severity of dementia. Formation of beta-amyloid (Abeta) is a complex kinetic and thermodynamic process, dependent on peptide-peptide interactions that may be modulated by other proteins. We found that site-directed antibodies toward peptide EFRH sequences 3-6 of the N-terminal region of AbetaP suppress in vitro formation of Abeta and dissolve already-formed fibrillar amyloid. These so-called chaperone-like properties of monoclonal antibodies led to the development of a new immunologic approach to AD treatment. The immunization procedure, based on phages displaying the EFRH epitope as antigen, induced anti-AbetaP antibodies that recognized the whole AbetaP and exhibited antiaggregating properties similar to those of antibodies obtained by injection of Abeta fibrils. Production and performance of anti-beta-amyloid antibodies in the transgenic mouse model of AD showed that these antibodies may be delivered from the periphery to the central nervous system, preventing the formation of Abeta and dissolving already-present aggregates. Moreover, immunization with Abeta protected transgenic mice from the learning and age-related memory deficits that occur in AD. These data support the hypotheses that Abeta plays a central role in AD and that site-directed antibodies that modulate Abeta conformation may provide immunotherapy of the disease.