Morphometric studies of the tail of the caudate nucleus, the site where the pathology is first seen, were performed on 16 brain specimens collected from individuals at risk for inheriting Huntington's disease (HD). Medical records and information obtained from immediate family members indicated that all had died without symptoms of HD. Six individuals had 37 or more CAG repeats and were designated HD gene carriers, whereas 10 were determined to be non-carriers. Cell counts of the tail of the caudate nucleus revealed an increased density of oligodendrocytes among the presymptomatic HD gene carriers (mean cells/field: carriers = 40.0, noncarrier = 21.3; age, sex, repeated measure adjusted F = 11.7, p = 0.0008). No statistically significant differences were found between HD carriers and noncarriers in the density of neurons (carriers = 16.9, noncarriers = 15.5), astrocytes (carriers = 27.8, noncarriers = 21.3) or microglial cells (carriers = 7.9, noncarriers = 5.6). Ubiquitin immunostaining performed in 3 gene carriers revealed intranuclear inclusions in all 3 cases, including 1, with 37 repeats, who died 3 decades before the expected age for onset of the clinical syndrome. Normal densities of other cell types and careful macroscopic examination suggest that the increase in oligodendroglial density is not a consequence of atrophy and may instead reflect a developmental effect of the HD gene.