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Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) is caused by mutations in amyloid precursor protein or presenilins (PS1 and PS2). Many FAD-linked PS mutations affect intracellular calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis by mechanisms proximal to and independent of amyloid production, although the molecular details are controversial. We found that several FAD-causing PS mutants enhance gating of the inositol trisphosphate receptor (IP3R) Ca2+ release channel by a gain-of-function effect that mirrored the genetics of FAD and was independent of secretase activity. In contrast, wild-type PS or PS mutants that cause frontotemporal dementia had no such effect. FAD-causing PS mutants altered the modes in which the IP3R channel gated. Recordings of endogenous IP3R in lymphoblasts derived from individuals with FAD or cortical neurons of asymptomatic PS1-AD mice revealed that they were more likely than IP3R in cells with wild-type PS to dwell in a high open-probability burst mode, resulting in enhanced Ca2+ signaling. These results indicate that exaggerated Ca2+ signaling through IP3R-PS interaction is a disease-specific and robust proximal mechanism in FAD.