Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology is estimated to develop many years before detectable cognitive decline. Fluid and imaging biomarkers may identify people in early symptomatic and even preclinical stages, possibly when potential treatments can best preserve cognitive function. We previously reported that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of amyloid-beta(42) (Abeta(42)) serve as an excellent marker for brain amyloid as detected by the amyloid tracer, Pittsburgh compound B (PIB). Using data from 189 cognitively normal participants, we now report a positive linear relationship between CSF tau/ptau(181) (primary constituents of neurofibrillary tangles) with the amount of cortical amyloid. We observe a strong inverse relationship of cortical PIB binding with CSF Abeta(42) but not for plasma Abeta species. Some individuals have low CSF Abeta(42) but no cortical PIB binding. Together, these data suggest that changes in brain Abeta(42) metabolism and amyloid formation are early pathogenic events in AD, and that significant disruptions in CSF tau metabolism likely occur after Abeta(42) initially aggregates and increases as amyloid accumulates. These findings have important implications for preclinical AD diagnosis and treatment.