The feeding of cholesterol-rich diets alters the serum lipoproteins of a number of mammalian species. These lipoproteins are characterized by the presence of several classes of particles enriched in cholesteryl esters and apolipoprotein E (apo E). It was the aim of this study to determine whether one or more of these particles arises by de novo hepatic synthesis by characterizing nascent lipoproteins isolated from the hepatic Golgi apparatus of hypercholesterolemic rats. Characterization of these lipoproteins afforded the opportunity to assess morphologic, biochemical, and biophysical properties of newly synthesized lipoproteins before enzymatic alterations and apoprotein transfer known to occur after secretion into the plasma compartment. Golgi very low density lipoproteins (VLDL, d < 1.006 g/ml) from hypercholesterolemic rats contained nearly four times the total cholesterol mass found in control Golgi VLDL. They exhibited electrophoretic mobility intermediate between beta and pre-beta and were devoid of apo C. A second population of hepatic Golgi lipoproteins was isolated from hypercholesterolemic rats at 1.006--1.040 g/ml d. These low density lipoproteins were smaller than VLDL, displayed beta electrophoretic mobility, were enriched in cholesteryl esters, and contained apo E as well as apo B. The fatty acid composition of the core lipids of the nascent lipoproteins was found to reflect that of dietary triglyceride. The liver of the hypercholesterolemic rat thus plays an active role in dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia by synthesizing a modified VLDL and a low density lipoprotein resembling serum low density lipoprotein.