Apolipoprotein D (apoD) is a member of the lipocalin family of proteins. Most members of this family are transporters of small hydrophobic ligands, although in the case of apoD, neither its physiological function(s) nor its putative ligand(s) have been unequivocally identified. In humans, apoD is expressed in several tissues, including the CNS, and its synthesis is greatly increased during regeneration of rat peripheral nerves. As apoD may have an important function in the nervous system and, particularly, in nerve regeneration, we measured immunoreactive apoD levels in the hippocampus and in CSF of patients with either Alzheimer's disease (AD) or other neuropathologies. In parallel, we determined the concentrations of apolipoprotein E (apoE), another apolipoprotein also implicated in nerve regeneration and in the etiology of AD. Levels of apoD but not apoE were increased in the hippocampus of AD patients compared with controls. ApoD concentrations, as determined by radioimmunoassay, were significantly increased in the CSF of AD patients (4.23 +/- 1.58 microg/ml) and patients with other pathologies (3.29 +/- 1.35 microg/ml) compared with those in the CSF of normal subjects (1.15 +/- 0.71 microg/ml). Although the differences were smaller than for apoD, the mean apoE concentrations in the CSF of both groups of patients were also significantly higher than those of controls. In AD patients, apoD, but not apoE, levels in CSF and hippocampus increased as a function of inheritance of the epsilon4 apoE allele. This study therefore demonstrates that increased apoD levels in the hippocampus and in CSF are a marker of neuropathology, including that associated with AD, and are independent of apoE concentrations.