The number and topographic distribution of immunocytochemically stained parvalbumin interneurons was determined in the hippocampal formation of control and Alzheimer's diseased brain. In control hippocampus, parvalbumin interneurons were aspiny and pleomorphic, with extensive dendritic arbors. In dentate gyrus, parvalbumin cells, as well as a dense plexus of fibers and puncta, were associated with the granule cell layer. A few cells also occupied the molecular layer. In strata oriens and pyramidale of CA1-CA3 subfields, parvalbumin neurons gave rise to dendrites that extended into adjacent strata. Densely stained puncta and beaded fibers occupied stratum pyramidale, with less dense staining in adjacent strata oriens and radiatum. Virtually no parvalbumin profiles were observed in stratum lacunosum-moleculare or the alveus. Numerous polymorphic parvalbumin neurons and a dense plexus of fibers and puncta characterized the deep layer of the subiculum and the lamina principalis externa of the presubiculum. In Alzheimer's diseased hippocampus, there was an approximate 60% decrease in the number of parvalbumin interneurons in the dentate gyrus/CA4 subfield (P<0.01) and subfields CA1-CA2 (P<0.01). In contrast, parvalbumin neurons did not statistically decline in subfields CA3, subiculum or presubiculum in Alzheimer's diseased brains relative to controls. Concurrent staining with Thioflavin-S histochemistry did not reveal degenerative changes within parvalbumin-stained profiles. These findings reveal that parvalbumin interneurons within specific hippocampal subfields are selectively vulnerable in Alzheimer's disease. This vulnerability may be related to their differential connectivity, e.g., those regions connectionally related to the cerebral cortex (dentate gyrus and CA1) are more vulnerable than those regions connectionally related to subcortical loci (subiculum and presubiculum).