Oxysterols induce apoptosis in vascular endothelial cells in vitro, but it is not clear whether they do so in vivo. We intravenously injected an oxysterol, cholestan-3beta, 5alpha, 6beta-triol, into rats and quantitatively analyzed endothelial cell apoptosis in the aorta. Oxysterol significantly promoted apoptosis in a time- and dose-dependent fashion. The apoptosis had increased 4.5-fold 6 hrs after injection, and returned to the background level at 48 hrs. An extract of the Chinese herb Danshen as well as probucol abolished triol-induced endothelial cell apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Since apoptotic cells are quickly cleared, oxysterol-induced apoptosis could significantly affect endothelial integrity over a long period of time. Radical scavengers may be useful for the prevention of endothelial damage.