Since the function and metabolism of peripheral lymphocytes is known to be altered in Alzheimer's disease (AD), a pilot study was carried out to examine differences in gene expression profiles of these cells in 16 AD patients and aged control probands. Using a cDNA microarray representing 3200 distinct human genes, we identified 20 candidate genes whose expression is altered in AD lymphocytes compared with the control probands. Among these were the alpha2C-adrenoreceptor gene, known to regulate blood pressure and learning, the defensin, histocompability complex enhancer-binding protein, carboxypeptidase M, and the Fc fragment of IgE known to be involved in cellular and humoral immune responses. Others, like human cell death protein, TRAIL, and galectin-4 participate in the regulation of apoptosis. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis was performed in order to confirm the expression changes in AD lymphocytes, and it could detect down-regulation of defensin and alpha2c-adrenoceptor genes, while other genes seemed unaltered in their expression, including heat-shock protein (hsp90), cholesteryl ester transfer protein, and apolipoprotein B100 (apoB). The altered expression profile of these genes might be connected with the previously reported AD-specific lymphocyte abnormalities. It remains to be elucidated, however, how these genes are related to the pathomechanism of dementia and whether the gene expression differences of AD lymphocytes reflect disease traits or stage processes.