Oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) may play a causal role in atherosclerosis. In this study we analyzed whether the severity of progression of coronary atherosclerosis is related to the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative modification. On the basis of repeated coronary angiography, 28 coronary bypass patients were divided into two groups: group A, 12 patients with, and group B, 16 patients without progression of coronary atherosclerosis. The lag time, reflecting the resistance of LDL to oxidative modification, was significantly smaller in group A as compared with group B (81 +/- 10 and 93 +/- 15 min, respectively). Besides differences in cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations, the difference in susceptibility of LDL to oxidation significantly contributes to the differences between the progression and the non-progression group (P = 0.02). In the combined groups of patients, the lag phase of LDL for oxidation was positively correlated with LDL cholesterol ester to protein ratio (r = 0.53, P = 0.01). It is concluded that LDL samples obtained from coronary bypass patients differ with respect to their oxidizability depending on progression of atherosclerosis following coronary bypass surgery.