The Niemann-Pick type Cl (NPC1) protein mediates the trafficking of cholesterol from lysosomes to other organelles. Mutations in the NPC1 gene lead to the retention of cholesterol and other lipids in the lysosomal compartment, and such defects are the basis of NPC disease. Several parallels exist between NPC disease and Alzheimer's disease (AD), including altered cholesterol homeostasis, changes in the lysosomal system, neurofibrillary tangles, and increased amyloid-beta generation. How the expression of NPC1 in the human brain is affected in AD has not been investigated so far. In the present study, we measured NPC1 mRNA and protein expression in three distinct regions of the human brain, and we revealed that NPC1 expression is upregulated at both mRNA and protein levels in the hippocampus and frontal cortex of AD patients compared to control individuals. In the cerebellum, a brain region that is relatively spared in AD, no difference in NPC1 expression was detected. Similarly, murine NPC1 mRNA levels were increased in the hippocampus of 12-month-old transgenic mice expressing a familial AD form of human amyloid-beta precursor protein (APP) and presenilin-1 (APP/PS1tg) compared to 12-month-old wild type mice, whereas no change in NPC1 was detected in mouse cerebellum. Immunohistochemical analysis of human hippocampus indicated that NPC1 expression was strongest in neurons. However, in vitro studies revealed that NPC1 expression was not induced by transfecting SK-N-SH neurons with human APP or by treating them with oligomeric amyloid-beta peptide. Total cholesterol levels were reduced in hippocampus from AD patients compared to control individuals, and it is therefore possible that the increased expression of NPC1 is linked to perturbed cholesterol homeostasis in AD. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.