Serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) concentration is a major determinant of susceptibility to the development of atherosclerosis. A major component of the protein moiety of LDL and its precursor very-low-density lipoprotein is apolipoprotein B (apo B). The human hepatoma cell line, Hep G2, was used as a model for the investigation of mechanisms which control hepatic secretion of the apo B and lipid components of lipoproteins. Using a sensitive immunoradiometric assay for apo B developed in this laboratory, we showed that bovine serum albumin inhibited and glucose, and fatty acids enhanced the rate of accumulation of apo B in the culture medium of Hep G2 cells. However, these substances did not necessarily affect LDL lipids in the same way as apo B. This finding appeared to be due to Hep G2 cells expressing lipase activities which led to triacylglycerol and phospholipid hydrolysis and lipid reuptake. Reuptake of apo B also occurred, but its rate of accumulation in the culture medium suggested it was a closer reflection of its true secretory rate.