The inflammatory response to intraarticular urate crystals is known to be variable in gouty arthritis. One source of variability may be the modulation of cellular responses by crystal-bound proteins. We have identified three apolipoproteins among the polypeptides bound to urate crystals exposed to plasma. Identification was first based on their coelectrophoresis with polypeptides from isolated lipoproteins and diminution in the protein coat of crystals exposed to lipoprotein-depleted plasma. The apoproteins were immunochemically identified by the Western blotting technique as apoprotein A-I, apoprotein B (apo B), and apoprotein E. Because neutrophils play a central role in acute gout, we investigated the potential effects of lipoproteins on neutrophil-urate crystal interactions. Plasma profoundly inhibited urate crystal-induced neutrophil luminol-dependent chemiluminescence (CL). Lipoprotein depletion by KBr density gradient centrifugation completely abrogated the inhibitory effect of plasma on urate-induced CL. The inhibitory activity of lipoprotein-depleted plasma was restored by adding back the d less than or equal to 1.25 g/cm3 lipoprotein fraction. Plasma also inhibited urate crystal-induced neutrophil superoxide generation and cytolysis (lactic dehydrogenase loss). This inhibition was significantly diminished by lipoprotein depletion, indicating that the lipoprotein effect was not limited to CL. Lipoprotein-depleted plasma reconstituted with very low, intermediate, and low density lipoproteins (LDL) inhibited crystal-induced CL. High density lipoprotein reconstitution was without effect. Immunodepletion from plasma of all apo B lipoproteins by agarose-bound apo B-specific antibody also removed all inhibitory activity for urate-induced CL. Thus, apo B lipoproteins were shown to be the inhibitory species in plasma. Binding of apo B lipoproteins to urate crystals and inhibition of CL was also seen in the absence of other plasma proteins. In addition, the binding of whole lipoprotein particles to the crystals was verified by detection of crystal-associated cholesterol in addition to the apoprotein. The effects of LDL on urate crystal-induced CL were stimulus specific. Coincubation of urate crystals and neutrophils in the presence of 10 micrograms/ml LDL resulted in 83% inhibition. In contrast, CL responses to a chemotactic hexapeptide, opsonized zymosan, and Staphylococcus aureus were not inhibited by LDL. The effects of depletion of apo B lipoproteins on plasma suppression of urate crystal-induced CL appeared to be unique. Plasma or sera depleted of other urate crystal-binding proteins including fibrinogen, fibronectin, C1q, and IgG retained virtually all their CL inhibitory activity. Lipoproteins containing apo B are thus a major regulator of neutrophil responses to urate crystals. These lipoproteins are present in variable concentration in synovial fluid and may exert an important influence on the course of gout.