Selective breeding of baboons has produced families with increased plasma levels of large high density lipoproteins (HDL1) and very low (VLDL) and low (LDL) density lipoproteins when the animals consume a diet enriched in cholesterol and saturated fat. High HDL1 baboons have a slower cholesteryl ester transfer, which may account for the accumulation of HDL1, but not of VLDL and LDL. To investigate the mechanism of accumulation of VLDL + LDL in plasma of the high HDL1 phenotype, we selected eight half-sib pairs of baboons, one member of each pair with high HDL1, the other member with little or no HDL1 on the same high cholesterol, saturated fat diet. Baboons were fed a chow diet and four experimental diets consisting of high and low cholesterol with corn oil, and high and low cholesterol with lard, each for 6 weeks, in a crossover design. Plasma lipids and lipoproteins and hepatic mRNA levels were measured on each diet. HDL1 phenotype, type of dietary fat, and dietary cholesterol affected plasma cholesterol and apolipoprotein (apo) B concentrations, whereas dietary fat alone affected plasma triglyceride and apoA-I concentrations. HDL1 phenotype and dietary cholesterol alone did not influence hepatic mRNA levels, whereas dietary lard, compared to corn oil, significantly increased hepatic apoE mRNA levels and decreased hepatic LDL receptor and HMG-CoA synthase mRNA levels. Hepatic apoA-I message was associated with cholesterol concentration in HDL fractions as well as with apoA-I concentrations in the plasma or HDL. However, hepatic apoB message level was not associated with plasma or LDL apoB levels. Total plasma cholesterol, including HDL, was negatively associated with hepatic LDL receptor and HMG-CoA synthase mRNA levels. However, compared with low HDL1 baboons, high HDL1 baboons had higher concentrations of LDL and HDL cholesterol at the same hepatic mRNA levels. These studies suggest that neither overproduction of apoB from the liver nor decreased hepatic LDL receptor levels cause the accumulation of VLDL and LDL in the plasma of high HDL1 baboons. These studies also show that, in spite of high levels of VLDL + LDL and HDL1, the high HDL1 baboons had higher levels of mRNA for LDL receptor and HMG-CoA synthase. This paradoxical relationship needs further study to understand the pathophysiology of VLDL and LDL accumulation in the plasma of animals with the high HDL1 phenotype.