Using a monoclonal antibody raised against purified, native, human protease nexin-2/amyloid precursor protein, which recognizes an amino terminal epitope on the amyloid precursor protein and detects all major isoforms of amyloid precursor protein, we examined the localization of the amyloid precursor protein within Alzheimer's and aged control brains. Very light cytoplasmic neuronal amyloid precursor protein staining but no neuritic staining was visible in control brains. In the Alzheimer's brain, we detected numerous amyloid precursor protein-immunopositive neurons with moderate to strong staining in select regions. Many neurons also contained varying levels of discrete granular, intracellular accumulations of amyloid precursor protein, and a few pyramidal neurons in particular appeared completely filled with amyloid precursor protein granules. "Ghost"-like deposits of amyloid precursor protein granules arranged in pyramidal, plaque-like shapes were identified. We detected long, amyloid precursor protein-immunopositive neurites surrounding and entering plaques. Many contained swollen varicosities along their length or ended in bulbous tips. Amyloid precursor protein immunoreactivity in the Alzheimer's brain was primarily present as granular deposits (plaques). The amyloid precursor protein granules do not appear to co-localize within either astrocytes or microglia, as evidenced by double-labeling immunohistochemistry with anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein and anti-leukocyte common antigen antibodies or Rinucus cummunicus agglutin lectin. Amyloid precursor protein could occasionally be detected in blood vessels in Alzheimer's brains. The predominantly neuronal and neuritic localization of amyloid precursor protein immunoreactivity indicates a neuronal source for much of the amyloid precursor protein observed in Alzheimer's disease pathology, and suggests a time-course of plaque development beginning with neuronal amyloid precursor protein accumulation, then deposition into the extracellular space, subsequent processing by astrocytes or microglia, and resulting in beta-amyloid peptide accumulation in plaques.