Apolipoprotein E (apoE, protein; APOE, gene) is a susceptibility gene for late-onset familial and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD). To examine the role of apoE in the pathogenesis of AD, we used immunocytochemistry to compare apoE localization in the hippocampus of histologically confirmed cases of AD, Parkinson's disease (PD), and normal controls. We confirmed apoE immunoreactivity in astrocytes, senile plaques, blood vessels, and some neurons containing neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). In addition, we observed apoE immunoreactivity in hippocampal neurons without NFTs in AD and PD patients as well as in some nondemented aged controls. In AD cases, apoE-immunoreactive neurites were closely associated with beta-amyloid (A beta) containing senile plaques and intraneuronal apoE was sometimes associated with immunoreactive tau protein accumulation. Thus, apoE is localized where it may affect the biological expression of two characteristic AD pathological correlates: extracellular A beta deposition and intraneuronal tau metabolism and NFT formation.