Oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) is involved in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Many factors can affect the LDL oxidation such as oxidative stress. The present study tested whether ox-LDL levels would be associated with apolipoprotein E (APOE), manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) Ala16Val polymorphisms, and classic cardiovascular risk factors. ox-LDL levels were measured by thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances and both polymorphisms were determined by polymerase chain reaction/restriction fragment length polymorphism in a sample of 252 subjects (70 men, 182 women, mean age, 54-85 years). Subjects with ox-LDL >or=0.5 nmol/mg apoprotein were considered the high level group (HLG, N = 82) and subjects with ox-LDL <0.5 nmol/mg apoprotein were considered the expected level group (ELG, N = 170). Classic risk factors were also evaluated. The results showed that diabetes mellitus was more prevalent in HLG, whereas other cardiovascular risk factors were similar between groups. The APOE genotype frequencies did not differ between HLG and ELG subjects. However, AA genotype from MnSOD polymorphism was more frequent in ELG (chi(2) = 8.48; P = 0.014). AV and VV subjects from ELG present highest ox-LDL levels (OR = 3.61; CI95% = 1.42-9.17) than AA. Additional analysis did not find gene-gene interactions associated with ox-LDL levels. Multivariate analysis showed that diabetes and the MnSOD polymorphism were independent factors associated with higher ox-LDL levels in HLG. The results suggest that an important framework on modulation of the redox status influenced by genetic polymorphisms could affect the cardiovascular homeostasis.