Rare mutations in apolipoprotein B (apoB) can cause defective binding of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) to the LDL receptor, leading to elevated plasma cholesterol levels and premature atherosclerosis. This communication describes a novel approach to study the effects of apoB mutations on LDL metabolism. Monoclonal antibody MB19 identifies a common polymorphism in apoB, an Ile/Thr substitution at residue 71, by binding with a 60-fold higher affinity to apoB(Ile71)-containing LDL. Because each LDL contains a single apoB, a maximum of two LDLs may be bound by the bivalent monoclonal antibody. Thus, at the appropriate concentration, an equivalent amount of MB19 will promote substantial dimer formation of LDL containing the strongly binding apoB(Ile71), but little dimer formation of LDL containing the weakly binding apoB(Thr71). For LDL isolated from heterozygous individuals, the amount of dimer formed, determined by dynamic light scattering, yields an estimate of the allelic ratio of the two forms of LDL. For such individuals, not only the effect of the polymorphism recognized by MB19 but also the effects of other polymorphisms on the LDL allelic ratio can be determined. Examination of six normolipemic MB19 heterozygotes gave percent allelic ratios between 48:52 and 51:49 tight:weak-binding LDL, not significantly different from a 50:50 ratio. These individuals were also heterozygous for six common apoB polymorphisms, allowing calculation of the odds that each of these polymorphisms caused significant alterations in lipid levels. In contrast, the rare mutation at residue 3500 causing defective binding to the LDL receptor and familial defective apoB100 (FDB) resulted in substantial changes (26:74 and 13:87) in LDL allelic ratio in both of two FDB individuals examined.