Mouse models were used to determine whether Chlamydia pneumoniae establishes chronic infection of the aorta and contributes to atherogenesis. Persistent infection of the aorta occurred in 11 of 31 hyperlipidemic apolipoprotein E-deficient (apoE(-/-)) mice but not in C57BL/6J mice fed a normal diet after a single inoculation and in both models following repeated inoculation with C. pneumoniae. Repeated inoculation of C57BL/6J mice resulted in inflammatory changes in the heart and aorta in 8 of 40 of mice; however, no atherosclerotic lesion development was observed. Repeated inoculation of apoE(-/-) mice resulted in a statistically significant increase in lesion area (n=43; P=.05). Although Chlamydia trachomatis disseminated to the aorta, persistent infection was not established and no statistically significant increase in lesion area occurred. These studies suggest that persistent infection of the aorta can lead to inflammatory changes in the absence of hyperlipidemia and accelerate lesion progress in concert with hyperlipidemia.