The role of oxidative damage in the aetiology of coronary disease remains controversial, as clinical trials investigating the effect of antioxidants have not generally been positive. In the present study, 227 coronary cases, identified from a cohort study, were matched, by age and gender, with 420 controls in a nested case-control design. Stored plasma samples were analysed for F2-isoprostanes by stable isotope dilution MS, and specifically oxidized forms of apoA-I (apolipoprotein A-I) by HPLC of HDL (high-density lipoprotein). Median values of F2-isoprostanes were higher in plasma samples that contained oxidized apoA-I compared with samples with undetectable oxidized apoA-I (1542 compared with 1165 pmol/l). F2-Isoprostanes were significantly correlated with variants of non-oxidized apoA-II (r=-0.15) and were associated with HDL-cholesterol (P<0.0001). F2-Isoprostanes in cases (median, 1146 pmol/l) were not different from controls (1250 pmol/l); the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for a 1 S.D. increase in F2-isoprostanes was 1.08 (0.91-1.29). Similarly, there was no independent association between the presence of oxidized apoA-I, detected in approx. 20% of the samples, and coronary risk. In conclusion, we found no evidence of associations between markers of lipid (F2-isoprostanes) and protein (oxidized apoA-I) oxidation and the risk of fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease in a general population. This may be due to a true lack of association or insufficient power.