The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is a subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptor that is involved in synaptic mechanisms of learning and memory, and mediates excitotoxic neuronal injury. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that NMDA receptor subunit gene expression is altered in Alzheimer's disease (AD), especially in brain regions known to be important in memory. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to determine the messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of the NMDA receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and NR2B in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex of postmortem brain samples from nine clinically well-characterized AD patients and nine aged controls. Cerebellum, a site minimally affected by AD, was also chosen for comparison assessment. Results showed decreased levels of the NR2 mRNAs in AD brains compared to controls. Reductions of NR2A (46.2%, p<0.01) and NR2B (43.2%, p<0.0001) mRNA levels were identified in the entorhinal cortex. Reductions of NR2A (41.4%, p<0.05) and NR2B (40.6%, p=0.058) mRNA levels were found in the hippocampus. NR1 mRNA levels were similar in all three brain regions in both AD and controls. No significant changes of subunit NR2A and NR2B mRNA levels were identified in the cerebellum. Postmortem delay (PMD), tissue storage time, brain weight, or age of the subjects did not affect these changes. These data suggest that alterations in NMDA receptor subunits, especially the NR2A and NR2B, may be important in AD, particularly in neuronal populations that underlie impaired learning and memory.