Involvement of the immune system in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease was demonstrated in two ways: by the attachment of complement proteins to diseased tissue, and by the activation of cells associated with the immune system. Alzheimer brain tissue was stained immunohistochemically by antibodies to components of the classical, but not the alternative, complement pathway. Antibodies to Clq, C3d, and C4d stained senile plaques, dystrophic neurites, neuropil threads and some tangled neurons. Antibodies to a neoantigenic site on the C5b-9 membrane attack complex stained dystrophic neurites and many tangled neurons, but not senile plaques. Antibodies to Factor P and fraction Bb of Factor B, which are specific for the alternative complement pathway, did not stain Alzheimer brain tissue. The cellular immune response was evaluated by the presence of reactive microglia and by the infiltration of small numbers of T-cells into diseased brain tissue. Reactive microglia were identified by antibodies to HLA-DR, a class II major histocompatibility complex glycoprotein, and by enhanced staining with antibodies to leukocyte common antigen and the FC7RI and FcyRII receptors. T-cells were identified by antibodies to leukocyte common antigen, as well as the CD4 and CD8 surface proteins. Double immunostaining with antibodies to GFAP and MHC class I or class II antigens established that astrocytes, which are GFAP positive, do not express MHC antigens in Alzheimer's disease. Endothelial cells express MHC class I antigens while reactive microglia and some leukocytes express class II antigen.