Aggregation and fibril formation of amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides Abeta40 and Abeta42 are central events in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. Previous studies have established the ratio of Abeta40 to Abeta42 as an important factor in determining the fibrillogenesis, toxicity, and pathological distribution of Abeta. To better understand the molecular basis underlying the pathologic consequences associated with alterations in the ratio of Abeta40 to Abeta42, we probed the concentration- and ratio-dependent interactions between well defined states of the two peptides at different stages of aggregation along the amyloid formation pathway. We report that monomeric Abeta40 alters the kinetic stability, solubility, and morphological properties of Abeta42 aggregates and prevents their conversion into mature fibrils. Abeta40, at approximately equimolar ratios (Abeta40/Abeta42 approximately 0.5-1), inhibits (> 50%) fibril formation by monomeric Abeta42, whereas inhibition of protofibrillar Abeta42 fibrillogenesis is achieved at lower, substoichiometric ratios (Abeta40/Abeta42 approximately 0.1). The inhibitory effect of Abeta40 on Abeta42 fibrillogenesis is reversed by the introduction of excess Abeta42 monomer. Additionally, monomeric Abeta42 and Abeta40 are constantly recycled and compete for binding to the ends of protofibrillar and fibrillar Abeta aggregates. Whereas the fibrillogenesis of both monomeric species can be seeded by fibrils composed of either peptide, Abeta42 protofibrils selectively seed the fibrillogenesis of monomeric Abeta42 but not monomeric Abeta40. Finally, we also show that the amyloidogenic propensities of different individual and mixed Abeta species correlates with their relative neuronal toxicities. These findings, which highlight specific points in the amyloid peptide equilibrium that are highly sensitive to the ratio of Abeta40 to Abeta42, carry important implications for the pathogenesis and current therapeutic strategies of Alzheimer disease.