Genetic factors independent of those affecting plasma lipid levels are a major contributor to risk for atherosclerosis in humans, yet the basis for these is poorly understood. This study examined plasma lipids and diet-induced atherosclerosis in 16-month-old female mice of strains C56BL/6J and DBA/2J. Mice of the parental strains, from recombinant inbred strains derived from these (BXD RI), and F(2) progeny were fed an atherogenic diet for 16 weeks, beginning at 1 year of age. This induced atherosclerotic lesion formation in both parental strains, accompanied by increased plasma LDL levels. However, individual BXD RI strains and the BXD F(2) mice demonstrated a range of atherosclerotic lesion formation that was not or at best weakly correlated with plasma lipid levels. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of the BXD F(2) mice identified a locus with significant linkage (lod 4.5) for aortic lesion size on Chromosome (Chr) 10 that was independent of plasma lipids. Other loci with suggestive or significant linkage for various plasma lipid measures were identified on Chr 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, and 17. In this intercross, the genes primarily influencing atherosclerosis are distinct from those controlling plasma lipid levels.