PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Recent publications related to the potential use of apolipoprotein (apo)A-I and apoA-I mimetic peptides in the treatment of atherosclerosis are reviewed. RECENT FINDINGS: A preliminary report indicating that infusion of apoA-IMilano into humans once weekly for 5 weeks caused a significant decrease in coronary artery atheroma volume has sparked great interest in the potential therapeutic use of apoA-I. Recent studies have revealed that HDL quality (e.g. HDL apolipoprotein and lipid content, including oxidized lipids, particle size and electrophoretic mobility, associated enzymatic activities, inflammatory/anti-inflammatory properties, and ability to promote cholesterol efflux) may be more important than HDL-cholesterol levels. Therefore, when developing new strategies to raise HDL-cholesterol concentrations by interfering with HDL metabolism, one must consider the quality of the resulting HDL. In animal models, raising HDL-cholesterol levels by administering oral phospholipids improved both the quantity and quality of HDL and was associated with lesion regression. An apoA-I mimetic peptide, namely 4F synthesized from D-amino acids (D-4F), administered orally to mice did not raise HDL-cholesterol concentrations but promoted the formation of pre-beta HDL containing increased paraoxonase activity, resulting in significant improvements in HDL's anti-inflammatory properties and ability to promote cholesterol efflux from macrophages in vitro. Oral D-4F also promoted reverse cholesterol efflux from macrophages in vivo. SUMMARY: The quality of HDL may be more important than HDL-cholesterol levels. ApoA-I and apoA-I mimetic peptides appear to have significant therapeutic potential in atherosclerosis.