Oxidation of LDL may be of pivotal importance in atherogenesis, but the mechanisms that promote oxidation in vivo remain poorly understood. We have explored the possibility that one pathway involves myeloperoxidase, a heme protein secreted by phagocytes. Myeloperoxidase is the only human enzyme known to generate hypochlorous acid (HOCl), a potent oxidizing agent, at physiological halide concentrations. LDL exposed to the complete myeloperoxidase-H2O2-Cl- system underwent chlorination of its protein tyrosyl residues. Treatment of LDL with reagent HOCl resulted in 3-chlorotyrosine formation, implicating HOCl as an intermediate in the enzymatic reaction pathway. In contrast, 3-chlorotyrosine was undetectable in LDL oxidized by hydroxyl radical, copper, iron, hemin, glucose, peroxynitrite, horseradish peroxidase, lactoperoxidase, or lipoxygenase. These results indicate that 3-chlorotyrosine is a specific marker for LDL oxidation by myeloperoxidase. To address the role of myeloperoxidase in promoting LDL oxidation in vivo, we used stable isotope dilution gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to quantify 3-chlorotyrosine in human aortic tissue and in LDL isolated from atherosclerotic lesions. The level of 3-chlorotyrosine in atherosclerotic tissue obtained during vascular surgery was sixfold higher than that of normal aortic intima. Moreover, the level of 3-chlorotyrosine was 30-fold higher in LDL isolated from atherosclerotic intima compared with circulating LDL. The detection of 3-chlorotyrosine in human atherosclerotic lesions indicates that halogenation reactions catalyzed by the myeloperoxidase system of phagocytes constitute one pathway for protein oxidation in vivo. These findings raise the possibility that the myeloperoxidase-H2O2-Cl- system plays a critical role in converting LDL into an atherogenic form.