We studied the effects of different blood collection and processing procedures on quantification of apolipoprotein (apo) B by radioimmunoassay. High-density lipoprotein subfractions HDL3 and HDL2 and isolated apoA-I did not cross-react in the assay. Analytical recovery of apoB at different doses of very-low- and low-density lipoproteins were complete. Inter- and intra-assay coefficients of variation (CVs) averaged 7.4% and 6.0%, respectively. Blood from 20 subjects was collected into tubes containing EDTA alone or EDTA with antiproteolytic and antioxidant agents; one half of each plasma was separated immediately, half after 3 h at 4 degrees C. Regardless of the addition of protective agents or the time difference in separating plasma from other blood elements, freezing plasma at -70 degrees C decreased apoB content a similar amount, an average of 6.8%. This loss of apoB immunoreactivity was not related to apoB content in fresh plasma. Analysis of variance showed no differential effect on apoB content by the various additions to whole blood or plasma. No additional apoB content was lost in once-frozen aliquots of three human plasma pools during storage at -70 degrees C for up to 18 months. We conclude that concentrations of apoB in human plasma can be measured reliably after long-term storage, although the absolute value may decrease slightly as a result of freezing.