Cerebral deposition of the beta-amyloid peptide (A beta) is an invariant feature of Alzheimer's disease. Since the original isolation and characterization of A beta (ref. 1) and the subsequent cloning of its precursor protein, no direct evidence for the actual production of discrete A beta has been reported. Here we investigate whether A beta is present in human biological fluids using antibodies specific for an epitope within A beta that spans the site of normal constitutive cleavage. These antibodies were used to construct a sandwich-type enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay that detects A beta in cerebrospinal fluid, plasma and conditioned medium of human mixed-brain cells grown in vitro (see also ref. 14). By affinity chromatography, we have purified and sequenced A beta and a novel A beta fragment from human cerebrospinal fluid and conditioned medium of human mixed-brain cell cultures. These findings demonstrate that A beta is produced and released both in vivo and in vitro. These observations offer new opportunities for developing diagnostic tests for Alzheimer's disease and therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing the cerebral deposition of A beta.