The deposition of amyloid beta (A beta) protein plays a central role in the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and it constitutes the core of classical senile plaques. However, little is known about its intracellular distribution. An immunogold electron microscope study was therefore carried out on biopsies of brain tissue from patients with AD using a monoclonal antibody raised against residues 8 to 17 of the A beta protein. Specific A beta immunogold labeling was observed over extracellular amyloid fibrils associated with senile plaques. In addition, widespread intracellular A beta immunolabeling was observed adjacent to granular structures (30-40 nm in diameter) within membrane-bound processes, Pretreatment of some sections with amylase or omission of lead citrate staining from others strongly suggests that the electron-dense granular structures associated with A beta immunoreactivity are glycogen. Some of the A beta-immunolabeled processes contained gliofilaments and immunolabeling of alternate sections for glial fibrillary acidic protein confirmed that the A beta-immunolabeled processes were astrocytic. A beta immunolabeling was not observed over neuronal or microglial processes, Whether the presence of A beta protein in astrocytes is the result of synthetic or degradation processes requires further investigation. (C) 1999 Academic Press.