BACKGROUND: Lipoproteins may contribute to diabetic nephropathy. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) can quantify subclasses and mean particle size of very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), and high density lipoprotein (HDL), and LDL particle concentration. The relationship between detailed lipoprotein analyses and diabetic nephropathy is of interest. METHODS: In a cross-sectional study, lipoproteins from 428 women and 540 men from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) cohort were characterized by conventional lipid enzymology, NMR, apolipoprotein levels, and LDL oxidizibility. Linear regression was performed for each lipoprotein parameter versus log albumin excretion rate (AER), with and without covariates for age, diabetes duration, HbA1c, hypertension, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, and DCCT treatment group. Significance was taken at P < 0.05. RESULTS: By multivariate analysis, conventional profile, total triglycerides, total- and LDL cholesterol, but not HDL cholesterol, were associated with AER. NMR-determined large, medium, and small VLDL were associated with AER in both genders (except large VLDL in women), and intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL) was associated with AER (men only). LDL particle concentration and ApoB were positively associated with AER (in men and in the total cohort), and there was a borderline inverse association between LDL diameter and AER in men. Small HDL was positively associated with AER and a borderline negative association was found for large HDL. No associations were found with ApoA1, Lp(a), or LDL oxidizibility. CONCLUSION: Potentially atherogenic lipoprotein profiles are associated with renal dysfunction in type 1 diabetes and further details are gained from NMR analysis. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if dyslipoproteinemia can predict patients at risk of nephropathy, or if lipoprotein-related interventions retard nephropathy.