Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is commonly used to study the participation of bone marrow-derived cells in atherosclerosis. To determine the effect of this methodology on lesions, 16 male low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor knockout (LDLr-/-) mice were reconstituted with bone marrow from syngeneic LDLr-/- mice after 10 Gy gamma-irradiation and compared with 12 male LDLr-/- littermates that did not undergo BMT (no-BMT group). Mice were fed a high fat diet (HFD) for 16 weeks to induce atherosclerosis. Sixteen additional LDLr-/- mice underwent BMT, and 12 male LDLr-/- mice that did not undergo BMT were fed a chow diet for 56 weeks. Thoracic aorta lesion areas were smaller in BMT mice than in no-BMT mice fed the HFD (P<0.0001). In contrast, aortic root lesion areas were greater in the BMT mice fed the HFD (P<0.0001) as well as in those fed the chow diet (P=0.0001). Abdominal aorta free cholesterol and cholesteryl ester mass were minimal in all groups studied. Aortic root lesions from all no-BMT mice were densely collagenous and encapsulated by a cellular cap, whereas lesions in the BMT mice contained lipid cores and minimal collagen staining. Although the reason for these differences in lesion size and composition remains unresolved, this study suggests that multiple parameters of lesion formation should be examined to assess atherosclerosis.