The protein flotillin-1 is associated with the 'lipid rafts', that is, membrane microdomains that are enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids. We compared flotillin-1 immunoreactivity in the hippocampus, amygdala and isocortex (Brodmann area 22) of six controls and 13 Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases (10 sporadic and three familial). A diffuse labelling of the neuropil was observed in most of the samples. The intensity of this labelling was not correlated with the density of neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) or of senile plaques. Some neuronal cell bodies were diffusely labelled in patients as in controls. Immunostained granular bodies were found in the cell body of a few neurones. The density of neuronal profiles containing large granular bodies (diameter > or =2 microm) was significantly higher in AD cases and was correlated with the density of NFTs in the three regions that were studied. Sections stained by double immunofluorescence methods and examined with confocal microscopy suggested that flotillin-1 accumulated most often in tangle-bearing neurones (76% of flotillin-1-positive neurones contained a NFT). Flotillin-1 immunoreactivity, even when found in a tangle-bearing neurone, was not colocalized with tau protein indicating that the two proteins were not in close contact and probably in different subcellular compartments. Flotillin-1-positive granular bodies were also found in neurones containing Pin1-positive vesicles but were not colocalized with them. Flotillin-1 immunoreactivity was colocalized with cathepsin D, a lysosomal marker. These data indicate that flotillin-1, a marker of rafts, accumulates in lysosomes of tangle-bearing neurones in the course of AD.