Oxidant-mediated damage is suspected to be involved in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative disorders. Iron promotes conversion of hydrogen peroxide to hydroxyl radical and, thus, may contribute to oxidant stress. We measured iron and its transport protein transferrin in caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, substantia nigra, and frontal cortex of subjects with Alzheimer's disease (n = 14) and Parkinson's disease (n = 14), and in younger adult (n = 8) and elderly (n = 8) normal controls. Although there were no differences between control groups with regard to concentrations of iron and transferrin, iron was significantly increased (p < 0.05) in Alzheimer's disease globus pallidus and frontal cortex and Parkinson's disease globus pallidus, and transferrin was significantly increased in Alzheimer's disease frontal cortex, compared with elderly controls. The transferrin/iron ratio, a measure of iron mobilization capacity, was decreased in globus pallidus and caudate in both disorders. Regional transferrin and iron concentrations were generally more highly correlated (Pearson's correlation coefficient) in elderly controls than in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The altered relationship between iron and transferrin provides further evidence that a disturbance in iron metabolism may be involved in both disorders.