Biomarkers are urgently needed for the diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression in Parkinson's disease. Both DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein, two proteins critically involved in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis, have been tested as disease biomarkers in several recent studies with inconsistent results. These have been largely due to variation in the protein species detected by different antibodies, limited numbers of patients in some studies, or inadequate control of several important variables. In this study, the nature of DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein in human cerebrospinal fluid was studied by a combination of western blotting, gel filtration and mass spectrometry. Sensitive and quantitative Luminex assays detecting most, if not all, species of DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein in human cerebrospinal fluid were established. Cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein from 117 patients with Parkinson's disease, 132 healthy individuals and 50 patients with Alzheimer's disease were analysed using newly developed, highly sensitive Luminex technology while controlling for several major confounders. A total of 299 individuals and 389 samples were analysed. The results showed that cerebrospinal fluid DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein levels were dependent on age and influenced by the extent of blood contamination in cerebrospinal fluid. Both DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein levels were decreased in Parkinson's patients versus controls or Alzheimer's patients when blood contamination was controlled for. In the population aged > or = 65 years, when cut-off values of 40 and 0.5 ng/ml were chosen for DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein, respectively, the sensitivity and specificity for patients with Parkinson's disease versus controls were 90 and 70% for DJ-1, and 92 and 58% for alpha-synuclein. A combination of the two markers did not enhance the test performance. There was no association between DJ-1 or alpha-synuclein and the severity of Parkinson's disease. Taken together, this represents the largest scale study for DJ-1 or alpha-synuclein in human cerebrospinal fluid so far, while using newly established sensitive Luminex assays, with controls for multiple variables. We have demonstrated that total DJ-1 and alpha-synuclein in human cerebrospinal fluid are helpful diagnostic markers for Parkinson's disease, if variables such as blood contamination and age are taken into consideration.