Plasma lipoprotein metabolism is regulated and controlled by the specific apolipoprotein (apo-) constituents of the various lipoprotein classes. The major apolipoproteins include apoE, apoB, apoA-I, apoA-II, apoA-IV, apoC-I, apoC-II, and apoC-III. Specific apolipoproteins function in the regulation of lipoprotein metabolism through their involvement in the transport and redistribution of lipids among various cells and tissues, through their role as cofactors for enzymes of lipid metabolism, or through their maintenance of the structure of the lipoprotein particles. The primary structures of most of the apolipoproteins are now known, and various functional domains of these proteins are being mapped using selective chemical modification, synthetic peptides, and monoclonal antibodies. Furthermore, the establishment of structure-function relationships has been greatly advanced by the identification of genetically determined variants of specific apolipoproteins that are associated with a disorder of lipoprotein metabolism. Future studies will rely heavily on the use of recombinant DNA technology and site-specific mutagenesis to elucidate further the correlations between structure and function and the role of specific apolipoproteins in lipoprotein metabolism.