Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been hypothesized to be an inflammatory condition. We hypothesized that anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), counteract the inflammatory process. In the present study, we found that TGF-beta levels were elevated in both cerebrospinal fluid and serum samples obtained from AD patients < 6 h after death. Serum TGF-beta levels were also markedly elevated before death. These results suggest that elevated TGF-beta levels in AD may represent a protective host response to immunologically mediated neuronal injury.