Competitive binding assays have demonstrated that a cholesterol-induced canine lipoprotein containing only the E apoprotein (apo-E HDL(c)) binds to the same cell surface receptors of human fibroblasts as human low density lipoproteins (LDL). However, the apo-E HDL(c) have a much greater binding activity than LDL. Equilibrium and kinetic binding studies were conducted at 4 degrees C to determine the mechanism for this enhanced receptor binding activity. Based on the data, the binding of both LDL and apo-E HDL(c) appears to be a simple bimolecular receptor interaction, and no heterogeneity of binding sites or cooperative effects among the receptor sites were observed. Equilibrium dissociation constants determined by Scatchard analysis of the equilibrium binding data for apo-E HDL(c) (K(d) = 0.12 x 10(-9) M) and LDL (K(d) = 2.8 x 10(-9) M) revealed a 23-fold greater affinity of HDL(c) for the receptors. Association and dissociation rate constants for the lipoprotein-receptor complex were determined from the time course of binding at various lipoprotein concentrations. The equilibrium dissociation constants calculated from these kinetic data confirmed that apo-E HDL(c) had a much higher affinity for the receptor than LDL. Furthermore, the kinetic studies indicated that apo-E HDL(c) bound more rapidly than LDL with rates of association of 18.0 x 10(4) and 5.5 x 10(4) M(-1) sec(-1), respectively. The rate of dissociation of the apo-E HDL(c)-receptor complex (1.7 x 10(-5) sec(-1)) was slower than that of the LDL receptor complex (6.3 x 10(-5) sec(-1)). An additional important difference between the binding of apo-E HDL(c) and LDL was that 4 times (3.6 +/- 0.4) as many LDL particles as HDL(c) particles were required for saturation of the receptors at maximal binding. These data indicate that each HDL(c) particle binds to multiple cell surface receptors at a ratio of 4:1 for LDL receptor binding.