In a previous survey of inbred mouse strains on an atherogenic diet, we observed that the susceptibility to aortic atherosclerotic lesion formation was associated with the accumulation of lipid peroxidation products, induction of inflammatory genes, and the activation of NF-kB-like transcription factors (Liao, F., A. Andalibi, F. C. deBeer, A. M. Fogelman, and A.J. Lusis. 1993. J. Clin. Invest. 91:2572-2579). We hypothesized that the inflammation-related processes were stimulated by oxidized lipids, since injection of minimally oxidized LDL (MM-LDL) activated the same set of genes. We now report that the induction of inflammatory genes and activation of NF-kB-like transcription factors cosegregate with aortic atherosclerotic lesion formation in BXH recombinant inbred strains derived from parental C57BL/6J (susceptible) and C3H/HeJ (resistant) mice. In addition, the accumulation of hepatic conjugated dienes exhibited a significant correlation with inflammatory gene activation. These results provide strong evidence for the role of inflammatory mediators inducible by oxidative stress in atherogenesis. They also suggest that a major gene contributing to aortic lesion development in this mouse model, designated Ath-1, may control either the accumulation of lipid peroxides in tissues or the cellular responses to such lipid peroxides.