Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes the function and survival of the major neuronal types affected in Alzheimer disease, such as hippocampal, cortical and basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. We and others have demonstrated a reduction in BDNF mRNA expression in Alzheimer's disease hippocampus and cortex, which may help to explain the selective vulnerability of these neurons. Several studies have also shown decreased BDNF protein in Alzheimer's disease. BDNF protein is synthesized as a precursor, proBDNF, which is cleaved to the mature 14-kDa form. We demonstrate here that BDNF exists as a mixture of proBDNF and mature BDNF in all regions tested of human brain. Using Western blotting, we observe a 40% reduction in proBDNF levels in Alzheimer's disease parietal cortex compared to controls. Thus, decreased BDNF protein measured by ELISA and immunohistochemistry likely represents a mixture of the two BDNF forms, and previously reported decreases in BDNF protein may be due, at least in part, to a significant reduction in proBDNF levels. Although the biological activity of proBDNF is unknown, reduced proBDNF may have functional consequences for the selective neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer's disease brain.