The uptake and degradation of low-density lipoproteins and the esterification and synthesis of cholesterol were poorly down-regulated by low-density lipoproteins in HepG2 cells. Addition of low-density lipoproteins to the cells increased the free and esterified cholesterol in the cells. The heavier fraction of high-density lipoproteins enhanced the degradation of low-density lipoproteins and cholesterol synthesis and decreased acyl CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase activity. Addition of the heavier fraction of high-density lipoproteins also caused a net efflux of cholesterol from HepG2 cells. The lighter fraction did not have any significant effect on cholesterol metabolism or cellular cholesterol level. Neither the lighter nor the heavier fractions of high-density lipoproteins were found to have any specific binding properties to HepG2 cells.