Neurogenesis occurs in the adult mammalian brain and may play roles in learning and memory processes and recovery from injury, suggesting that abnormalities in neural progenitor cells (NPC) might contribute to the pathogenesis of disorders of learning and memory in humans. The objectives of this study were to determine whether NPC proliferation, survival and neuronal differentiation are impaired in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and to determine the effects of the pathogenic form of amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) on the survival and neuronal differentiation of cultured NPC. The proliferation and survival of NPC in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus was reduced in mice transgenic for a mutated form of amyloid precursor protein that causes early onset familial AD. Abeta impaired the proliferation and neuronal differentiation of cultured human and rodent NPC, and promoted apoptosis of neuron-restricted NPC by a mechanism involving dysregulation of cellular calcium homeostasis and the activation of calpains and caspases. Adverse effects of Abeta on NPC may contribute to the depletion of neurons and cognitive impairment in AD.