In this study we sought to learn about when and how amyloid beta-protein (A beta) accumulates in the cortex of normal individuals and about the difference in the A beta accumulation between normal aged and Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains. From consecutive autopsy cases and AD cases, hippocampus CA1 and occipitotemporal cortex T4 were sampled for A beta quantitation by the well characterized two-site enzyme immunoassays (EIAs). There was a strong tendency toward A beta 42 accumulation between the ages of 50 and 70 years in T4 and a little later in CA1. The A beta 42 levels were consistently higher in T4 than those in CA1 in any given case. The levels of A beta 42 in AD brains were significantly higher than those in control brains, and the extent of A beta 42 amino-terminal modification was also much greater in AD brains than that in control brains. Even in cases in which no senile plaques were immunocytochemically detected, EIAs clearly showed that significant amounts of A beta 42 already had accumulated. In contrast to A beta 42, A beta 40 showed no apparent age-dependent accumulation, and its high levels were found to be associated with AD.