We quantified the plasma levels and peritoneal loss of lipids and lipoproteins, and studied the composition of plasma and effluent lipoproteins in 16 patients on CAPD (5 females and 11 males, 18 to 76 years old). Five patients were studied prospectively (at 0, 1, 3 and 6 months) and 11 patients at 6 to 58 months on CAPD (N = 30). Elevated levels of plasma VLDL and reduced levels of plasma HDL were maintained in these patients throughout 58 months of CAPD, whereas the initially increased LDL levels showed a tendency towards normalization. All plasma lipoproteins (VLDL, IDL, LDL and HDL) were present in the peritoneal effluent. The lipoproteins isolated from plasma and peritoneal fluid shared a similar lipid and apolipoprotein composition. The peritoneal transport characteristics of plasma lipoproteins were similar to other plasma macromolecules. Their clearance correlated with their molecular mass, plasma concentration and dwell time, but was not affected by duration of CAPD treatment. The plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels were unaffected by the rate of glucose absorption. The peritoneal protein clearance correlated positively with plasma levels of triglyceride and LDL, and negatively with plasma HDL. An inverse correlation was observed also between plasma levels of HDL and its peritoneal clearance (r = -0.393, P < 0.025, N = 30). The continuous peritoneal loss of HDL and the hypertriglyceridemia were found to contribute most to the persistent low plasma levels of HDL in CAPD patients, and thus may lead to the accelerated atherosclerosis observed in these patients.