Numerous epidemiological studies have suggested an association between the acute phase response and atherosclerosis. Paraoxonase (PON) is an HDL associated enzyme that protects LDL from oxidative stress. Here we demonstrate that serum PON activity decreases following endotoxin (LPS) administration in Syrian hamsters. This decrease is seen within 24 h following LPS treatment and doses as low as 100 ng/100 g body weight of LPS elicit a reduction in serum PON activity. LPS also induces a marked decrease in PON1 mRNA in the liver (80% decrease). The decrease in mRNA levels is observed as early as 4 h and is sustained for at least 48 h after a single LPS treatment. Moreover, TNF and IL-1, cytokines which mediate the acute phase response, also decrease serum PON activity and PON mRNA levels in the liver. Additionally, TNF and IL-1 treatment of HepG2 cells results in a decrease in PON mRNA levels indicating that these cytokines are capable of directly affecting liver cells. Along with other changes in lipid metabolism that occur during the acute phase response, the decrease in PON could be another factor linking the acute phase response with increased atherogenesis.