The effects of acetylcholine administration on coronary stenoses in relation to serum lipids level were evaluated in 18 patients (15 men, 3 women) with coronary artery disease and stable angina. Intracoronary acetylcholine was infused in concentrations 10(-7), 10(-6), 10(-5) M, followed by intracoronary bolus administration of isosorbide dinitrate. Computerized angiography was used to assess the changes in the diameter of stenoses and of proximal and distal segments. During acetylcholine infusion, at concentrations between 10(-7) to 10(-5) M, there was a significant (p <0.01) dose-dependent constriction of proximal and distal segments and of stenoses reversed by isosorbide dinitrate. There was no correlation between the serum total cholesterol level and the responses of proximal and distal segments to acetylcholine or nitrate. A correlation (p <0.05) was found between the serum total cholesterol level and the response of stenoses to acetylcholine, but there was no correlation with the response to isosorbide dinitrate. In conclusion, in patients with stable angina current serum total cholesterol level correlates with the vasomotor response of coronary stenoses to intracoronary acetylcholine. These findings are consistent with a direct effect of cholesterol, increasing basal coronary vasomotor tone and increasing the stimulated vasoconstrictor response of stenoses.