The influence of different fibrates on apolipoprotein metabolism was investigated. Administration of fenofibrate provoked a dose-dependent decrease in plasma cholesterol concentration that was already evident after 1 day. Intestinal apolipoprotein (apo) A-I and apo A-IV mRNA levels remained fairly constant. In contrast, liver apo A-I, apo A-II, and apo A-IV mRNA levels decreased in a dose-dependent fashion, which was associated with a lower transcription rate of the apo A-I but not the apo A-II gene. The decline in hepatic apo A-I, apo A-II, and apo A-IV mRNA had already started after 1 day and was associated with a drop in plasma apo A-I and apo A-IV concentrations. Plasma apo E had already decreased after 1 day of fenofibrate, whereas apo B initially remained constant and increased only after 14 days of fenofibrate at the highest dose. Hepatic and intestinal apo B mRNA contents and liver, heart, kidney, and testis apo E mRNA contents were only marginally affected after treatment with fenofibrate. Liver low density lipoprotein receptor mRNA levels rose slightly after a 3-day administration of the highest dose of fenofibrate. Both clofibrate and gemfibrozil had effects comparable to those of fenofibrate on liver and intestinal apolipoprotein mRNA levels except for liver apo A-II mRNA, which decreased only marginally. Compared with fenofibrate, clofibrate caused similar changes in plasma cholesterol, apo A-I, apo A-IV, and apo E concentrations, whereas gemfibrozil increased plasma cholesterol and apo E without changing apo A-I and apo A-IV concentrations.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)