BACKGROUND: Recent analyses suggest that the known Alzheimer's disease genes account for less than half the genetic variance in this disease. The gene encoding ubiquilin 1 (UBQLN1) is one of several candidate genes for Alzheimer's disease located near a well-established linkage peak on chromosome 9q22. METHODS: We evaluated 19 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in three genes within the chromosome 9q linkage region in 437 multiplex families with Alzheimer's disease from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) sample (1439 subjects). We then tested the single-nucleotide polymorphisms showing a positive result in an independently identified set of 217 sibships discordant for Alzheimer's disease (Consortium on Alzheimer's Genetics [CAG] sample; 489 subjects) and assessed the functional effect of an implicated single-nucleotide polymorphism in brain tissue from 25 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 17 controls. RESULTS: In the NIMH sample, we observed a significant association between Alzheimer's disease and various single-nucleotide polymorphisms in UBQLN1. We confirmed these associations in the CAG sample. The risk-conferring haplotype in both samples was defined by a single intronic single-nucleotide polymorphism located downstream of exon 8. The risk allele was associated with a dose-dependent increase in an alternatively spliced UBQLN1 (lacking exon 8) transcript in RNA extracted from brain samples of patients with Alzheimer's disease. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that genetic variants in UBQLN1 on chromosome 9q22 substantially increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, possibly by influencing alternative splicing of this gene in the brain.