Allelic sequence variation in the apolipoprotein (apo) E gene has been analysed by means of synthetic oligonucleotide probes that detect single base pair substitutions in the codons for amino acid positions 112 and 158, substitutions that are responsible for the common isoforms. Use of the polymerase chain reaction procedure to amplify a sequence of 330 base pairs of the human apo E gene has permitted the development of a robust method for apo E genotyping. This technique has been used to determine the apo E genotype in 95 individuals in whom the genotype for an apo CII TaqI restriction fragment length polymorphism has also been determined. No strong linkage disequilibrium between the two gene loci was detected. This suggests that the metabolic effects of variation in the apo E and apo CII genes, as detected by the polymorphisms used here, would operate in a statistically independent manner.