Patients with renal failure have an increased incidence of atherosclerotic disease. Numerous studies have shown that these patients show increased serum lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] concentrations compared with the control population. However, variable alleles at the apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] gene locus determine to a large extent the Lp(a) concentration in the general population. We therefore undertook the present study to evaluate apo(a) phenotypes and Lp(a) serum concentrations in a large number of patients with renal disease. Seventy-nine patients treated by hemodialysis (HD), 47 patients treated by continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), 68 patients with mild/moderate chronic renal failure (CRF) and serum creatinine levels of 1.8 to 8 mg/dL, and 73 healthy controls were studied. All patients showed significantly elevated median serum Lp(a) concentrations in comparison with controls: HD patients, 15.7 mg/dL (P < 0.01); CAPD patients, 20 mg/dL (P < 0. 005); CRF patients, 15.1 mg/dL (P < 0.01) versus controls, 7 mg/dL. The greater Lp(a) values in all groups were not explained by differences in isoform frequencies, whereas their increase was apo(a)-type specific. Thus, patients in all groups with high-molecular-weight (HMW) apo(a) isoforms showed a significant elevation of Lp(a) levels, whereas serum Lp(a) concentrations in patients with low-molecular-weight (LMW) isoforms were not significantly different from controls, except for CAPD patients, who presented increased serum Lp(a) concentrations. We conclude that in patients with renal failure, even of mild/moderate degree, as well as in patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing HD or CAPD, elevated Lp(a) concentrations are mainly observed in those with HMW apo(a) phenotypes.