Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a well characterized 299 amino acid protein that participates in the regulation of plasma cholesterol and lipid metabolism. In humans, apoE has three major protein isoforms: E2 (cys(112), cys(158)); E3 (cys(112), arg(158)); and E4 (arg(112), arg(158)) that are encoded for by a single gene on chromosome 19. Genetic studies have shown that apoE4 is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD) as well as for poor outcome following certain injuries to the central nervous system (CNS). These genetic data, as well as other data reviewed herein, suggest that apoE may play an important role in the nervous system under certain conditions. This review focuses on studies demonstrating that apoE can modulate neuronal structure and the potential implication of these findings for its role following CNS injury, in AD, and in other neurodegenerative diseases.