β-Site amyloid precursor protein (APP)-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is a biological and positional candidate gene for Alzheimer's disease (AD). BACE1 is a protease that catalyses APP cleavage at the β-secretase site. We evaluated all common and putatively functional polymorphisms in the genomic region encompassing BACE1 for an association with AD, and for functional effects on platelet β-secretase activity. Tag SNPs (n = 10) derived from phase II of the International HapMap Project, and a nonsynonymous variant, were successfully genotyped in 901 Caucasian individuals from Northern Ireland using Sequenom iPLEX and TaqMan technologies. APOE genotyping was performed by PCR-RFLP. Platelet membrane β-secretase activity was assayed in a subset of individuals (n = 311). Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium was observed for all variants. Evidence for an association with AD was observed with multi-marker haplotype analyses (P = 0.01), and with rs676134 when stratified for APOE genotype (P = 0.02), however adjusting for multiple testing negated the evidence for association of this variant with AD. χ2 analysis of genotype and allele frequencies in cases versus controls for individual SNPs revealed no evidence for association (5% level). No genetic factors were observed that significantly influenced platelet membrane β-secretase activity. We have selected an appropriate subset of variants suitable for comprehensive genetic investigation of the BACE1 gene. Our results suggest that common BACE1 polymorphisms and putatively functional variants have no significant influence on genetic susceptibility to AD, or platelet β-secretase activity, in this Caucasian Northern Irish population.