Whether elevated β-secretase (BACE) activity is related to plaque formation or amyloid β peptide (Aβ) production in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brains remains inconclusive. Here, we report that we used sandwich enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay to quantitate various Aβ species in the frontal cortex of AD brains homogenized in 70% formic acid. We found that most of the Aβ species detected in rapidly autopsied brains (<3 h) with sporadic AD were Aβ1-x and Aβ1-42, as well as Aβx-42. To establish a linkage between Aβ levels and BACE, we examined BACE protein, mRNA expression and enzymatic activity in the same brain region of AD brains. We found that both BACE mRNA and protein expression is elevated in vivo in the frontal cortex. The elevation of BACE enzymatic activity in AD is correlated with brain Aβ1-x and Aβ1-42 production. To examine whether BACE elevation was due to mutations in the BACE-coding region, we sequenced the entire ORF region of the BACE gene in these same AD and nondemented patients and performed allelic association analysis. We found no mutations in the ORF of the BACE gene. Moreover, we found few changes of BACE protein and mRNA levels in Swedish mutated amyloid precursor protein-transfected cells. These findings demonstrate correlation between Aβ loads and BACE elevation and also suggest that as a consequence, BACE elevation may lead to increased Aβ production and enhanced deposition of amyloid plaques in sporadic AD patients.