The mechanism by which ethinyl estradiol (EE) decreases the concentration of lipids in the d less than 1.019 g/ml fraction (beta-very low density lipoprotein [beta-VLDL]) of homozygous Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbits was studied. Treatment with EE increased the activity of hepatic lipase (HL) twofold to threefold in postheparin plasma and in liver biopsies. Postheparin plasma and adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activities were also increased twofold to fourfold after EE. The effects of EE on HL and LPL activities were associated with a threefold to sixfold elevation in liver HL mRNA and a fourfold elevation in adipose tissue LPL mRNA steady-state levels, pointing to an effect of EE on HL and LPL gene transcription. EE also increased liver low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor mRNA levels threefold to fivefold. These results suggest a concerted action of LPL, HL, and the LDL receptor in the removal of beta-VLDL in homozygous WHHL rabbits with a defective LDL receptor. In addition, the content of apolipoprotein E in the d less than 1.019 g/ml fraction changed toward normal after EE. Because the remaining particles contained apolipoprotein B-100 almost exclusively, it is likely that apolipoprotein E-containing beta-VLDLs are preferentially removed. This may be the result of the increased activity of LPL and HL influencing the conformation of apolipoprotein E on the beta-VLDL particle in such a way that it is directly removed from the circulation, possibly by the induced LDL receptor.