The apolipoprotein E (APOE, gene; apoE, protein) type 4 isoform is a well-established risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD), and new data suggest that APOE promoter polymorphisms might also modulate AD risk, perhaps by altering transcription of the APOE gene. The current study was undertaken to determine whether the presence of the APOE promoter -491AA genotype (that appears to increase the risk for AD) is associated with an increase in the levels of apoE in brain tissue. Among 40 control and 20 autopsy-confirmed AD brain samples, levels of apoE were increased in the frontal cortex of AD cases (P < 0.001), consistent with the well-recognized up-regulation of APOE expression in reactive astrocytes. Among controls, the -491A allele appeared to impart a gene dose-dependent effect on the levels of apoE in frontal cortex. The levels of apoE in the brains of AD patients with the -491AA genotype were increased as compared to control subjects with the same genotype (P< 0.001). These data support the notion that the -491AA APOE promoter genotype is associated with elevated brain apolipoprotein E levels, suggesting that the risk for AD may be modulated by the apoE protein level as well as by the apoE protein isoform.