1. Adult WHHL rabbits, or New Zealand rabbits fed either a stock chow diet or a high cholesterol diet were evaluated to assess the relationship between the development of aortic atherosclerosis and arterial FABP activity. 2. Aortic FABP activity was significantly (P less than 0.05) lower in atherosclerotic New Zealand aortas (0.039 +/- 0.008 nmol palmitoyl CoA bound/mg soluble prot) which had developed macroscopic lesions on 80% of the aortic surface as compared to lesion-free New Zealand aortas (0.053 +/- 0.002 nmol palmitoyl CoA bound/mg soluble prot). 3. In spontaneously hyperlipidemic rabbit (WHHL) aortas, FABP activity (0.023 +/- 0.004 nmol palmitoyl CoA bound/mg soluble prot) was significantly lower (P less than 0.05) than in either the normal or atherosclerotic New Zealand aortas. 4. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report a change in arterial FABP with the atherogenic process.