We have identified a kindred in Providence, RI, deficient in hepatic triglyceride lipase (HL). The two affected brothers have coronary heart disease and elevated levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and apolipoprotein [apo] A-I. The lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity is normal. We and others have postulated that the effects of oral anabolic steroids on HDL metabolism are mediated by HL. To test this hypothesis, we treated these two men and two controls with the oral androgen stanozolol (6 mg/d) for 2 weeks. Consistent with other reports, HL activity increased a mean of 277% in controls with a concomitant decrease in HDL cholesterol (49%), HDL2 cholesterol (90%), HDL3 cholesterol (16%), and apo A-I (41%) and no change in apo A-II. Although stanozolol failed to induce HL activity in the HL-deficient man, HDL cholesterol, HDL2 cholesterol, and apo A-I were reduced a mean of 20%, 48%, and 32%, respectively. In contrast to controls, HDL3 cholesterol (46%) and apo A-II (14%) increased in HL-deficient subjects. Stanozolol treatment also increased LPL activity (124% +/- 86%, n = 4) and decreased lipoprotein(a) ([Lp(a)] 66% +/- 3%, n = 3) in the three men with detectable levels. The data indicate that in addition to stimulation of HL activity, stanozolol treatment changes HDL cholesterol concentration and subfraction distribution by other mechanisms.