It has been postulated that the rate of hepatic very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) apolipoprotein (apo) B secretion is dependent upon the activity of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase. To test this hypothesis in vivo, apoB kinetic studies were carried out in miniature pigs before and after 21 days treatment with high-dose (10 mg/kg/day), atorvastatin (A) or simvastatin (S) (n = 5). Pigs were fed a diet containing fat (34% of calories) and cholesterol (400 mg/day; 0.1%). Statin treatment decreased plasma total cholesterol [31(A) vs. 20%(S)] and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations [42 (A) vs. 24% (S)]. Significant reductions in plasma total triglyceride (46%) and VLDL triglyceride (50%) concentrations were only observed with (A). Autologous [I-131]VLDL, [I-125]LDL, and [H-3]leucine were injected simultaneously, and apoB kinetic parameters were determined by triple-isotope multicompartmental analysis using SAAM II. Statin treatment decreased the VLDL apoB pool size [49 (A) vs. 24% (S)] and the hepatic VLDL apoB secretion rate [50 (A) vs. 33% (S)], with no change in the fractional catabolic rate (FCR). LDL apoB pool size decreased [39 (A) vs. 26% (S)], due to reductions in both the total LDL apoB production rate [30 (A) vs. 21% (S)] and LDL direct synthesis [32 (A) vs. 23% (S)]. A significant increase in the LDL apoB FCR (15%) was only seen with (A). Neither plasma VLDL nor LDL lipoprotein compositions were significantly altered. Hepatic HMG-CoA reductase was inhibited to a greater extent with (A), when compared with (S), as evidenced by 1) a greater induction in hepatic mRNA abundances for HMG-CoA reductase (105%) and the LDL receptor (40%) (both P <0.05); and 2) a greater decrease in hepatic free (9%) and esterified cholesterol (25%) (both P <0.05). We conclude that both (A) and (S) decrease hepatic VLDL apoB secretion, in vivo, but that the magnitude is determined by the extent of HMG-CoA reductase inhibition.