Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common geriatric eye disorder leading to blindness and is characterized by degeneration of the neuroepithelium in the macular area of the eye. Apolipoprotein E (apoE), the major apolipoprotein of the CNS and an important regulator of cholesterol and lipid transport, appears to be associated with neurodegeneration. The apoE gene (APOE) polymorphism is a strong risk factor for various neurodegenerative diseases, and the apoE protein has been demonstrated in disease-associated lesions of these disorders. Hypothesizing that variants of APOE act as a potential risk factor for AMD, we performed a genetic-association study among 88 AMD cases and 901 controls derived from the population-based Rotterdam Study in the Netherlands. The APOE polymorphism showed a significant association with the risk for AMD; the APOE epsilon4 allele was associated with a decreased risk (odds ratio 0.43 [95% confidence interval 0.21-0. 88]), and the epsilon2 allele was associated with a slightly increased risk of AMD (odds ratio 1.5 [95% confidence interval 0.8-2. 82]). To investigate whether apoE is directly involved in the pathogenesis of AMD, we studied apoE immunoreactivity in 15 AMD and 10 control maculae and found that apoE staining was consistently present in the disease-associated deposits in AMD-maculae-that is, drusen and basal laminar deposit. Our results suggest that APOE is a susceptibility gene for AMD.