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The pineal secretory product melatonin has, in addition to regulating retinal, circadian and vascular functions, neuroprotective effects. Blood melatonin levels are often decreased in Alzheimer's disease (AD), a progressively disabling neurodegenerative disorder. In this study we provide the first immunohistochemical evidence for the localization of melatonin 1a-receptor (MT1) in aged human hippocampus and a comparison of AD cases. MT1 was localized to pyramidal neurons in the hippocampal cornu ammonis (CA)1-4 subfields. There was a distinct increase in staining intensity in all AD cases indicating an up-regulation of the receptor, possibly as a compensatory response to impaired melatonin levels in order to augment melatonin's neuroprotective effects.