Endothelial lipase (EL), a new member of the lipase gene family, was recently cloned and has been shown to have a significant role in modulating the concentrations of plasma high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL). EL is closely related to lipoprotein and hepatic lipases both in structure and function. It is primarily synthesized by endothelial cells, functions at the cell surface, and shows phospholipase A1 activity. Overexpression of EL decreases HDL cholesterol levels whereas blocking its action increases concentrations of HDL cholesterol. Pro-inflammatory cytokines suppress plasma HDL cholesterol concentrations by enhancing the activity of EL. On the other hand, physical exercise and fish oil (a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) suppress the activity of EL and this, in turn, enhances the plasma concentrations of HDL cholesterol. Thus, EL plays a critical role in the regulation of plasma HDL cholesterol concentrations and thus modulates the development and progression of atherosclerosis. The expression and actions of EL in specific endothelial cells determines the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis locally explaining the patchy nature of atheroma seen, especially, in coronary arteries. Both HDL cholesterol and EPA and DHA enhance endothelial nitric oxide (eNO) and prostacyclin (PGI2) synthesis, which are known to prevent atherosclerosis. On the other hand, pro-inflammatory cytokines augment free radical generation, which are known to inactivate eNO and PGI2. Thus, interactions between EL, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the ability of endothelial cells to generate NO and PGI2 and neutralize the actions of free radicals may play a critical role in atherosclerosis.