The relationship between lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] and metabolism of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TRL) was studied in 58 untreated patients with familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCH) from eight different kindreds, 17 spouse controls, and 17 unrelated controls. Lp(a) plasma concentrations were not significantly different between FCH subjects (343 +/- 61 mg/L, mean +/- SEM) and controls (249 +/- 52 mg/L). In FCH, log-transformed Lp(a) levels correlated positively with postheparin lipoprotein lipase ([LPL] r = .61, P = .0002) and hepatic lipase ([HL] r = .46, P = .008) activities and total plasma cholesterol level (r = .30, P = .03). In controls, Lp(a) correlated with LPL (r = .50, P = .04) and total plasma cholesterol level (r = .51, P = .003). In eight FCH patients, treatment with the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitor simvastatin resulted in significantly increased mean LPL activities and plasma Lp(a) concentrations. In three of these FCH patients, repeated measurements during 1 year demonstrated that changes in Lp(a) concentrations were paralleled by similar changes in LPL activity, but not HL activity. The observed correlation between postheparin plasma lipolytic activities and Lp(a) plasma concentrations suggests a connection between the metabolism of TRL and Lp(a).