Several previous families with differing clinical and pathologic characteristics have demonstrated linkage to the 17q21-22 region. We have performed a linkage analysis with chromosome 17 markers on three families showing autosomal dominant inheritance of non-Alzheimer dementia and 60 kindreds with late-onset familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). Family A shows unequivocal evidence of linkage with a maximum lad score of 5.0 for marker D17S934 (θ = 0.001). This family has an unusual syndrome of a schizophrenia- like psychosis beginning in the fifth or sixth decade followed by severe dementia with an average disease duration of 13.8 years. Neuropathology from five autopsies in this family has shown marked neurofibrillary tangle formation (NFT), degeneration of the amygdala, and no amyloid plaques. This confirms the presence of a gene associated with dementia on 17q and extends the related phenotype to include schizophrenia-like symptoms and classic NFT pathology. A second family with early aphasia progressing to dementia and cortical-basal ganglion-like degeneration also has suggestive evidence for linkage to 17q. A third family with very early-onset dementia (mean, 31 years) and nonspecific pathology can be excluded from the 17q region and emphasizes additional genetic heterogeneity in non-Alzheimer hereditary dementia. Finally, we also present evidence against linkage to D17S579 in the set of 60 families with late-onset FAD, providing further evidence that the chromosome 17 gene is unlikely to be involved in the pathogenesis of typical AD.