Studies of the molecular composition of the abnormal neuritic processes of the plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have shown that these structures are immunoreactive with antibodies against growth-related molecules, synaptic/axonal proteins, and cytoskeletal proteins. These studies suggest that a subpopulation of abnormal neurites in the plaque are sprouting axons that eventually degenerate. To test this hypothesis further we studied the regional distribution of plaques in the hippocampus using a panel of monoclonal antibodies against synaptic proteins. With these antibodies we found a greater proportion of immunoreactive plaques compared to previous studies where a monoclonal antibody against synaptophysin was used. The most sensitive antibodies to detect neuritic plaques were SP11 and anti-p65, and the largest number of positive plaques was found in the entorhinal cortex and CA1 region. These results further support the theory that synaptic and axonal damage are involved in plaque formation in AD.