The primary structure of apolipoprotein E (apo E) was investigated in seven type III hyperlipoproteinemic patients with the apo E-2/2 phenotype. Six of the patients had identical two-dimensional tryptic peptide maps. These differed from the normal apo E3 map by the altered mobility of a single peptide. Amino acid analysis and sequencing showed that apo E2 in these patients had a substitution of 158 Arg----Cys. The presence of this mutation in six of the seven type III patients confirms that this is the most common form of apo E2. The seventh type III patient had a unique map with a new peptide resulting from a substitution of 136 Arg----Ser. He was heterozygous for this and for the more common apo E2 (158 Arg----Cys) variant. His very low-density lipoprotein contained approximately five times more apo E2 (136 Arg----Ser) than apo E2 (158 Arg----Cys), as determined by cysteamine treatment and peptide mapping. This new apo E2 mutant thus appears to contribute significantly to the patient's hyperlipidemia.