Upregulation of a number of chemokines, including monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), is associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathological changes. Emerging evidence suggests that inflammatory events precede the clinical development of AD, as cytokine disregulation has been observed also in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCP-1 levels were evaluated in serum samples from 48 subjects with MCI, 94 AD patients and 24 age-matched controls. Significantly increased MCP-1 levels were found in MCI and mild AD, but not in severe AD patients as compared with controls. mRNA levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR analysis, paralleled serum MCP-1 levels. Moreover, a progressive MCP-1 decrease was observed over a 1-year follow up in a subgroup of MCI subjects converted to AD. MCP-1 upregulation is likely to be a very early event in AD pathogenesis, by far preceding the clinical onset of the disease. Nevertheless, as MCP-1 is likely to play a role in several pathologies with an inflammatory component, a possible usefulness as an early AD biomarker would be possible only in combination with other molecules.