Plasma lipid, lipoprotein levels and apolipoprotein apo E phenotypes were determined in 70 patients with myotonic dystrophy (MyD) and 81 controls. Marked differences were noticed in the apo E phenotype frequencies between the two groups. Plasma triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol were higher in MyD than controls, but only the latter was related to differences in the apo E phenotypes between two groups. Accordingly, the ratio of VLDL cholesterol/plasma triglycerides was increased significantly in MyD, suggesting accumulation of intermediary density particles due to lower affinity of E2 containing lipoproteins for lipoprotein cell receptors. The LDL cholesterol concentration was lower in MyD than controls and was related to differences in the apo E phenotype frequencies between the two groups. These results indicate increased removal of LDL particles in the apo E2 phenotypes, perhaps due to upregulation of LDL (B, E) receptor activity. Plasma cholesterol and HDL cholesterol concentrations were similar in both groups. Another feature of the study was lower levels of plasma cholesterol, triglycerides, VLDL and LDL cholesterol in the homozygous E4:E4 phenotype. These results suggest increased clearance rate of both VLDL and LDL particles and support the concept that apo E4-containing lipoproteins have higher in vivo affinity for ape E and/or B, E receptors.