Clinical and biochemical characteristics of familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) heterozygotes possessing an abnormally high molecular weight low density lipoprotein receptor (HMWR) are reported. The disorder is transmitted as an autosomal dominant trait and is not distinguishable from classic heterozygous FH on clinical grounds. The average plasma low density lipoprotein (LDL) level is 360 mg/dl and tendon xanthomata and early coronary disease are present. LDL receptor activity is higher than expected. In skin fibroblast cultures two types of functional LDL receptors are present, one with a normal apparent native molecular weight of 140,000, and the other of 176,000. When immobilized on nitrocellulose paper both receptors bind LDL. Maximum 125I-LDL binding capacity of fibroblast monolayers is reduced only 20%, compared with 50% in typical heterozygous FH. Affinity for 125I-LDL is increased and a 38% reduction in the Michaelis constant for LDL is observed. When autologous 125I-LDL was injected intravenously, the fractional catabolic rate of LDL was 205% and the LDL apoprotein B production rate was 328% of that found in a typical heterozygous FH subject. Thus, both in vitro and in vivo testing implicated only a modest deficiency of LDL receptor activity. Kindred members possessing the HMWR had an associated abnormality of cholesterol biosynthesis. Cholesterol balance studies in 3 individuals with the HMWR trait demonstrated elevated cholesterol biosynthesis of two to three times the mean of normal subjects. These findings suggest that increased LDL production and increased cholesterol production may assume a significant role in the pathologic manifestations of heterozygous FH. Functional abnormalities in LDL receptor activity as measured in fibroblast culture may be relatively small.