To investigate the effect of thyroid dysfunction on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) metabolism, we measured HDL subfractions, apolipoprotein A-I containing particles (LpA-I and LpA-I:A-II), and the activities of enzymes involved in the remodeling and metabolism of HDL [namely hepatic lipase (HL), lipoprotein lipase, and cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP)] in 18 hyperthyroid and 17 hypothyroid patients before and after treatment. HDL was subfractionated by density gradient ultracentrifugation, and LpA-I was analyzed by electroimmunodiffusion. The major changes were found in the HDL2 subfraction and in LpA-I particles. HDL2-C and LpA-I were reduced in hyperthyroidism (P < 0.01, P < 0.05, respectively) and increased in hypothyroidism (both P < 0.05) compared with their respective euthyroid matched controls. Changes in HDL2-cholesterol were reversed after treatment in both hyper- and hypothyroid patients, and LpA-I also decreased in the hypothyroid patients after treatment. HL (P < 0.05) and CETP activities (P < 0.05) were elevated in hyperthyroidism and reduced in hypothyroidism (P < 0.05, P < 0.01 respectively) and both were related to free T4 levels. The changes in HDL2-C and LpA-I correlated significantly with changes in HL after treatment but not with CETP or lipoprotein lipase. In summary, HDL metabolism was altered in thyroid dysfunction, and the effect of thyroid hormone on HDL was mediated mainly via its effect on HL activity.