Because accumulation of alpha-synuclein (alphaS) in the brain is a hallmark of Parkinson disease (PD) and related disorders, we examined its occurrence in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Following affinity enrichment and trypsin digestion of CSF collected from a neurologically healthy donor, we identified several alphaS-derived peptides by mass spectrometry. The concentration of alphaS amounted to <0.001% of the CSF proteome. We then built, validated and optimized a sandwich-type, enzyme-linked immunoadsorbent assay (ELISA) to measure total alphaS levels in unconcentrated CSF. In a cross-sectional study of 100 living donors, we examined cell-free CSF samples from subjects clinically diagnosed with advanced PD, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Alzheimer disease (AD), and a group of non-neurodegenerative disease controls (NCO). In these four groups the CSF alphaS concentrations ranged from 0.8 to 16.2 pg/microl. Mean CSF alphaS values were lower in donors with a primary synucleinopathy (PD, DLB: n=57) than in the other two groups (AD, NCO: n=35; p=0.025). By contrast, living Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease patients showed markedly elevated CSF alphaS levels (n=8; mean, 300 pg/microl; p<0.001). Our results unequivocally confirm the presence of alphaS in adult human CSF. In a first feasibility study employing a novel ELISA, we found relatively low CSF alphaS concentrations in subjects with parkinsonism linked to synucleinopathy, PD and DLB. In definite prion disease cases, we recorded a marked rise in total CSF alphaS resulting from rapid cell death. Our results will likely aid future biomarker explorations in neurodegenerative conditions and facilitate target validation studies.