Gap junctions are plasma membrane specializations involved in direct cell-cell communication. Intercellular communication is dependent upon the assembly of gap junction structures and would be influenced by agents which alter the assembly process. We investigated the effects of low density lipoprotein (LDL) on gap junction assembly between cultured Novikoff cells using quantitative dye transfer and freeze-fracture electron microscopic methods. We observed a concentration-dependent increase in dye transfer (maximum effect at 2.5 μg protein/ml) and a sixfold increase in the number of aggregated gap junction particles per cell. Immunoblots of Novikoff cells probed with anti-connexin43 antibody revealed no detectable increase in gap junction protein (connexin) levels. The influence of the different components of LDL on junction formation was also examined. First, we treated cells with cholesterol (0-150 μM) in serum-free BSA media and observed a decrease in junction assembly. Second, we added apolipoprotein-B (apo-B) in phosphatidyl choline vesicles to the cells and observed a concentration-dependent increase in dye transfer (maximum effect at 2.5 μg protein/ml) and a fivefold increase in the number of aggregated gap junction particles per cell. The addition of phosphatidyl choline vesicles without apo-B had no effect on gap junction formation. Thus, we demonstrated that gap junction assembly can be modulated by LDL and apo-B treatments.