alpha-1-Antichymotrypsin (ACT) is present in neuritic plaques in which it participates in the inflammatory cascade of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Reports of blood ACT levels in AD, and its usefulness as a disease biomarker, have been conflicting. In an effort to clarify this, we measured plasma ACT levels in 516 white subjects including 359 subjects with probable or possible AD, 44 subjects with other late-life dementias, and 113 nondemented people. Subjects with systemic inflammatory diseases or who were taking antiinflammatory medications were excluded. All patients underwent extensive medical and detailed neuropsychological examinations at the time their blood was drawn. We found that plasma ACT levels were elevated in AD patients compared with the control group (p = 0.01) and were associated with severity of AD dementia; there was a negative association with the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale (a global measure of cognition) and a positive association with the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (a global functional assessment). These relationships remained significant after controlling for demographic and genetic variables. When AD subjects were stratified into subgroups by dementia severity, matched by age, education, and gender, increased serum ACT correlated with Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (p = 0.0041) or Mattis Dementia Rating Scale (p = 0.0031) scores. ACT measurements in cerebrospinal fluid from an additional 34 AD cases and 16 controls showed elevated levels (p = 0.02) in AD. There was a negative correlation (p = 0.037) between cerebrospinal fluid ACT levels and clinical severity as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination. Our results demonstrate that peripheral ACT levels are elevated in AD, but not in dementias other than AD, and they increase with progression of AD dementia. Although not useful as a diagnostic biomarker, ACT may reflect disease severity and may be helpful as a within subject biomarker in interventions (particularly with antiinflammatory agents) directed at slowing or halting progression of disease.