1. Induction of hypothyroidism in rats by feeding propylthiouracil (PTU) significantly increased serum cholesterol concentrations, and the effect was more pronounced for cholesterol in low-density lipoproteins (LDL) rather than high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The concentrations of serum triacylglycerol were decreased in hypothyroidism. These effects on serum lipids were also seen when the normal rats were pair-fed with the PTU-treated group. 2. Feeding a diet rich in saturated fat and cholesterol further increased cholesterol concentrations in LDL and also elevated that in very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) of hypothyroid rats. In euthyroid rats such a diet resulted in a relatively small increase in VLDL cholesterol, whereas LDL cholesterol was decreased. 3. Steady-state concentrations of mRNA for the hepatic LDL receptor were significantly decreased in the livers of hypothyroid rats, but were not significantly changed by high-fat feeding in euthyroid or hypothyroid rats. 4. The expression of the LDL receptor in hepatocytes cultured from hypothyroid rats was decreased relative to the euthyroid controls. 5. Whereas the esterification of cholesterol with oleate in hepatocytes cultured from hypothyroid rats was decreased, the activity of acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) in the livers of these animals was not changed. 6. High-fat feeding increased the hepatic ACAT activity in normal and hypothyroid rats. 7. Incubation of rat hepatocytes with 10 nM-tri-iodothyronine for 4 h increased the relative concentration of the mRNA for the LDL receptor by 25%. 8. It is therefore concluded that thyroid hormones stimulate the synthesis and expression of the hepatic LDL receptor. Elevated cholesterol concentrations in LDL in hypothyroidism probably result from a primary defect in the expression of the hepatic receptor, rather than indirectly via changes in ACAT activity.