Sepsis leads to hypertriglyceridemia in both humans and animals. Previously, we reported that plasma very low density lipoprotein apolipoprotein (apo) B and hepatic production of apoB increased during Escherichia coli sepsis. The present experiments were undertaken to determine whether the altered hepatic secretion of apoB was associated with an increase in synthesis or a decrease in degradation rate. Sepsis was induced in male, Lewis rats (225-275 g) by intravenous injection of 3.8 x 108 live E. coli colonies/100 g body. Twenty-four hours later rats were sacrificed, and primary hepatocytes were prepared and incubated overnight with 35S-methionine. Hepatocytes from E. coli-treated rats secreted twice as much apoB-48 and total apoB than the hepatocytes from control rats. Escherichia coli sepsis increased cellular triglyceride mass by 86%, which was due to a stimulation in triglyceride synthesis from newly synthesized fatty acids, measured by 3H2O incorporation into triglycerides. The apoB synthesis rate, apoB mRNA levels, and apoB mRNA editing were not altered during E. coli sepsis. The pulse-chase experiments showed that the rate of apoB degradation decreased in E. coli-treated rats. These findings demonstrate that the secretion of apoB is regulated posttranslationally during E. coli sepsis by decreasing the degradation of newly synthesized apoB, which contributes to the development of hypertriglyceridemia.