A large family is reported with familial hepatic triglyceride lipase (HTGL) deficiency and with the coexistence of reduced lipoprotein lipase (LPL) similar to the heterozygote state of LPL deficiency. The proband was initially detected because of hypertriglyceridemia and chylomicronemia. He was later demonstrated to have beta-VLDL despite an apo E3/E3 phenotype and the lack of stigmata of type III hyperlipoproteinemia. The proband had no HTGL activity in postheparin plasma. Two of his half-sisters had very low HTGL activity (39 and 31 nmol free fatty acids/min/ml; normal adult female greater than 44). His son and daughters had decreased HTGL activity (normal male and preadolescent female greater than 102), which would be expected in obligate heterozygotes for HTGL deficiency. Low HTGL activity was associated with LDL particles which were larger and more buoyant. Several family members, including the proband, had reduced LPL activity and mass less than that circumscribed by the 95% confidence-interval ellipse for normal subjects and had hyperlipidemia similar to that described in heterozygote relatives of patients with LPL deficiency. All the sibs with hyperlipidemia had a reduced LPL activity and mass, while subjects with isolated reduced HTGL (with normal LPL activity) had normal lipid phenotypes. Analysis of genomic DNA from these subjects by restriction-enzyme digestion revealed no major abnormalities in the structure of either the HTGL or the LPL gene. Compound heterozygotes for HTGL and LPL deficiency show lipoprotein physiological characteristics typical for HTGL deficiency, while their variable lipid phenotype is typical for LPL deficiency.