The relationship of apolipoprotein E (apo E) genotypes to plasma lipid and maximal oxygen uptake (Vo2max) was studied in the sedentary state and after a supervised exercise training program in black and white men and women. At baseline, the apo E 2/3 genotype was associated with the lowest, and apo E 3/4 and E4/4 with the highest low-density liporpotein (LDL) cholesterol and apo B levels in men and women of both races, while female (not male) carriers of apo E3 had higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels than carriers of other genotypes. Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels were significantly higher in carriers of both apo E2 and apo E4 in white men only. Racial and sex differences were noted in lipid responses to exercise training across genotypes with a significantly greater increase in HDL cholesterol observed only in white female carriers of apo E 2/3 and E3/3, as compared to apo E4/4. Apo E polymorphism was not found to be associated with Vo2max levels either in the sedentary state nor the Vo2max response to exercise training, contrary to previous reports.