Apolipoprotein (Apo) E plays a key role in the metabolism of lipoproteins. It also modulates immunoregulation, cell growth and differentiation and the response to nerve injury. The liver is a major site of ApoE synthesis. Most of the circulating ApoE is thought to be of hepatic origin with most synthesized in hepatocytes. We showed that total liver ApoE messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were greater in normal adult female rats than in male and that gender-specific patterns of liver ApoE mRNA expression were present by in situ hybridization. In the male liver, the signal was strongest in the portal area, decreasing toward the central vein with the weakest signal in pericentral hepatocytes, resulting in a hepatic lobular gradient of expression. In female liver, a strong periportal signal also was observed that decreased in Zone 2, similar to that in males, but which then increased in pericentral hepatocytes resulting in a bowl-like distribution in marked contrast with that of the male. The results suggest that ApoE mRNA level is regulated differentially in hepatocytes within the liver plate and that the regulation is gender-dependent. Further, the results suggest that in males, hepatocytes in the portal area are the major contributors of ApoE to the plasma and/or sinusoidal pool, whereas in females, both portal and central area hepatocytes play an equal role.