The risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is highly dependent on apolipoprotein-E (apoE) genotype. The reasons for apoE isoform-selective risk are uncertain; however, both the amounts and structure of human apoE isoforms have been hypothesized to lead to amyloidosis increasing the risk for AD. To address the hypothesis that amounts of apoE isoforms are different in the human CNS, we developed a novel isoform-specific method to accurately quantify apoE isoforms in clinically relevant samples. The method utilizes an antibody-free enrichment step and isotope-labeled physiologically relevant lipoprotein particle standards produced by immortalized astrocytes. We applied this method to a cohort of well characterized clinical samples and observed the following findings. The apoE isoform amounts are not different in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from young normal controls, suggesting that the amount of apoE isoforms is not the reason for risk of amyloidosis prior to the onset of advanced age. We did, however, observe an age-related increase in both apoE isoforms. In contrast to normal aging, the presence of amyloid increased apoE3, whereas apoE4 was unchanged or decreased. Importantly, for heterozygotes, the apoE4/apoE3 isoform ratio was increased in the CNS, although the reverse was true in the periphery. Finally, CSF apoE levels, but not plasma apoE levels, correlated with CSF β-amyloid levels. Collectively, these findings support the hypothesis that CNS and peripheral apoE are separate pools and differentially regulated. Furthermore, these results suggest that apoE mechanisms for the risk of amyloidosis and AD are related to an interaction between apoE, aging, and the amount of amyloid burden.