The relations between triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, alimentary lipaemia and coronary heart disease (CHD) have remained obscure and much debated. We studied the basal and postprandial plasma levels of chylomicron remnants and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) of varying particle size in 32 male postinfarction patients (mean (S.D.) age 48.8 (3.2) years) and in 10 age-matched control men. The selective quantification of postprandial intestinal and hepatic lipoproteins was accomplished by determining apolipoproteins B-48 and B-100 in lipoprotein subfractions of Svedberg flotation (Sf) rates > 12 before and 3, 6 and 12 h after an oral fat load. Since all patients had undergone two coronary angiographies with an intervening time interval of around 5 years, lipoprotein fractions were examined in relation to the global severity as well as the rate of progression of coronary lesions. The postprandial plasma levels of small chylomicron remnants (Sf 20-60 apolipoprotein B-48) were found to relate distinctly to the rate of progression of coronary lesions between the angiographies (r = 0.51, P = 0.01). Adjustment for the possible confounding effect of the HDL cholesterol and dense LDL apolipoprotein B concentrations did not substantially alter the strength of this association. Neither the increment of plasma triglyceride during the postprandial period nor the concentrations of other lipoprotein fractions closely reflected the amount of small chylomicron remnants in the circulation or correlated with progression of coronary lesions. Our data suggest that small chylomicron remnants are implicated in the progression of coronary artery disease.