To clarify the alterations of tau, amyloid beta protein (A beta) 1-40 and A beta1-42(43) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that accompany normal aging and the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD), CSF samples of 93 AD patients, 32 longitudinal subjects among these 93 AD patients, 33 patients with non-AD dementia, 56 with other neurological diseases, and 54 normal control subjects from three independent institutes were analyzed by sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Although the tau levels increased with aging, a significant elevation of tau and a correlation between the tau levels and the clinical progression were observed in the AD patients. A significant decrease of the A beta1-42(43) levels and a significant increase of the ratio of A beta1-40 to A beta1-42(43) were observed in the AD patients. The longitudinal AD study showed continuous low A beta1-42(43) levels and an increase of the ratio of A beta1-40 to A beta1-42(43) before the onset of AD. These findings suggest that CSF tau may increase with the clinical progression of dementia and that the alteration of the CSF level of A beta1-42(43) and the ratio of A beta1-40 to A beta1-42(43) may start at early stages in AD. The assays of CSF tau, A beta1-40, and A beta1-42(43) provided efficient diagnostic sensitivity (71%) and specificity (83%) by using the production of tau levels and the ratio of A beta1-40 to A beta1-42(43), and an improvement in sensitivity (to 91%) was obtained in the longitudinal evaluation.