Brains from patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) show a disruption in the metabolism of iron, such that there is an accumulation of iron in senile plaques, and an altered distribution of iron transport and storage proteins. One of the earliest events in AD is the generation of oxidative stress, which may be related to the generation of free radicals by the excess iron that is observed in the disease. Iron has also been shown to mediate the in vitro toxicity of amyloid-beta peptide, and the presence of iron in most in vitro systems could underlie the toxicity that is normally attributed to amyloid-beta in these studies. In contrast, several recent studies have suggested that amyloid-beta may decrease oxidative stress and decrease the toxicity of iron. Continued examination of the complex interactions that occur between iron and amyloid-beta may assist in the elucidation of the mechanisms that underlie the neurodegeneration that leads to dementia in AD.