During atherogenesis, a pathological accumulation of lipids occurs within aortic intimal macrophages through uptake of oxidised LDL via scavenger receptors. Here we investigated whether some of the anti-atherosclerotic effects ascribed to an olive oil rich-diet are mediated through effects on macrophage scavenger receptors (MSR). Male C57 Bl6 mice aged 6 weeks were fed for 12 weeks on a low-fat diet (containing 25 g corn oil/kg) or on high-fat diets containing 200 g coconut oil, olive oil or safflower oil/kg. Thioglycollate-elicited peritoneal macrophages were analysed for fatty acid composition by GC and the levels of mRNA coding for three MSR (MSRA type I, MSRA type II and CD36) were measured by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Feeding mice diets enriched with different fats resulted in significant differences in the fatty acid profile of macrophages, which reflected the fatty acid compositions of the diets. These differences were accompanied by a lower level of mRNA for MSRA type I, MSRA type II and CD36 in macrophages from mice fed an olive-oil-enriched diet compared with the mice fed on the low-fat diet. These data suggest that part of the protective effect of olive oil against atherosclerosis might be via reducing macrophage uptake of oxidised LDL. Whether this effect is due to the downregulation of gene transcription directly by unsaturated fatty acids or is the result of the effect of monounsaturated fatty acids or other components of olive oil on LDL composition and oxidation remains to be ascertained.