Amino acid precursors labelled with stable isotopes have been successfully used to explore the metabolism of the apolipoproteins of HDL. Some methodological and mathematical modelling problems remain, mainly related to amino acid recycling in a plasma protein such as apolipoprotein A-I with a long residence time (the reciprocal of the fractional catabolic rate) of 4-5 days. Apolipoprotein A-I, apolipoprotein E, and apolipoprotein A-IV in triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (containing chylomicrons, VLDL, and remnants) exhibit more complex kinetics. The small amounts of apolipoprotein A-I and of apolipoprotein A-IV in the triglyceride-rich lipoproteins have a residence time similar to that of the apolipoprotein A-I of HDL. In contrast, the apolipoprotein E in triglyceride-rich lipoproteins has been found to have an average residence time of 0.11 days. Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which lower HDL levels, do so by decreasing the secretion of apolipoprotein A-I, with apolipoprotein A-II kinetics unaffected. Individuals with impaired glucose tolerance have a decreased residence time of apolipoprotein A-I but no change in secretion rate or in apolipoprotein A-II kinetics. This suggests a link between insulin resistance and the risk of atherosclerosis. In heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, both the fractional catabolic rate and the secretion rate of apolipoprotein A-I are increased, resulting in no change in the plasma level. Stable isotope studies have strengthened the evidence that triglyceride enrichment of HDL increases its catabolism Laboratory.