Several synthetic class A peptide analogues have been shown to mimic many of the properties of human apo A-I in vitro. A new peptide [acetyl-(AspTrpLeuLysAlaPheTyrAspLysValPheGluLysPheLysGluPhePhe)-NH2; 5F], with increased amphipathicity, was administered by intraperitoneal injection, 20 microg/day for 16 weeks, to C57BL/6J mice fed an atherogenic diet. Mouse apo A-I (MoA-I) (50 microg/day) or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) injections were given to other mice as controls. Total plasma cholesterol levels and lipoprotein profiles were not significantly different between the treated and control groups, except that the mice receiving 5F or MoA-I had lower high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol when calculated as a percentage of total cholesterol. No toxicity or production of antibodies to the injected materials was observed. When HDL was isolated from high fat diet-administered mice injected with 5F and presented to human artery wall cells in vitro together with human low density lipoprotein (LDL), there were substantially fewer lipid hydroperoxides formed and substantially less LDL-induced monocyte chemotactic activity than with HDL from PBS-injected animals. Injection of human apo A-I produced effects similar to 5F on lipid peroxide formation and LDL-induced monocyte chemotactic activity, but injection of MoA-I was significantly less effective in reducing lipid hydroperoxide formation or lowering LDL-induced monocyte chemotactic activity. Mice receiving peptide 5F had significantly less aortic atherosclerotic lesion area compared with mice receiving PBS, whereas lesion area in mice receiving MoA-I was similar to that of the PBS-injected animals. This is the first in vivo demonstration that a model class A amphipathic helical peptide has antiatherosclerotic properties. We conclude that 5F inhibits lesion formation in high fat diet-administered mice by a mechanism that does not involve changes in the lipoprotein profile, and may have potential in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.