Subcortically lesioned rats were used as an animal model of some of the neurochemical and behavioral deficits of Alzheimer's disease (AD) to investigate the in vivo expression and metabolism of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Previously, the rapid and persistent induction of APP was described in cerebral cortices after disruption of its cholinergic, serotonergic, or noradrenergic afferents. In the present study, this induction was found to lead to the elevated secretion of APP into the cerebrospinal fluid of lesioned animals. Lesions of the forebrain cholinergic system in aged rats caused an even greater increase in the CSF levels of secreted APP. Antibodies to the extracellular domain of APP detected the protein whereas antibodies to the cytoplasmic region did not, indicating that the APP present in CSF was of the soluble form. Immunoprecipitation with an A beta sequence-specific antibody followed by immunoblot analysis indicated that a significant portion of secreted APP was of the species that contains at least the first 28 amino acids of the A beta sequence (APP gamma or APPA beta). By contrast, very low levels of A beta peptide were detected in CSF. The secretion was accompanied by an elevation of cellular C-terminal fragments of the APP in the lesioned cortex. Consistent with our previous results, this increased APP secretion was caused by lesions of subcortical cholinergic and serotonergic systems. The postlesion time course of APP secretion showed an initial reduction of APP (1 hr postlesion) in CSF followed by an eventual twofold elevation 1–6 weeks later. These results indicate that the induction of APP in response to loss of subcortical innervation leads to elevated secretion of a soluble form of cortically derived APP that contains significant portions of the A beta sequence.