Although beta-conglycinin (7S globulin), a major soy storage protein, stimulates the expression of LDL receptors and the degradation of LDL by hepatocytes in vitro, the in vivo effects of dietary beta-conglycinin on the cardiovascular system are unknown. We assessed the effects of dietary beta-conglycinin and other soy peptide fractions on the development of atherosclerosis in atherosclerosis-susceptible mice. At 6 wk of age, male and ovariectomized female apolipoprotein (apo) E-null mice and LDL receptor-null, apoB transgenic mice were assigned randomly to treatment groups that differed only in the source of dietary protein: 1) casein/lactalbumin, 2) isoflavone-containing soy protein isolate, 3) beta-conglycinin, 4) glycinin (11S globulin, another major soy storage protein), 5) beta-conglycinin-devoid soy protein, and 6) W008 (a peptide fraction produced by hydrolysis and precipitation of soy protein isolate). After 4 mo, aortic atherosclerosis (cholesteryl ester content) and plasma lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were quantified using GLC. Relative to mice fed casein/lactalbumin-based diets, the extent of atherosclerosis was reduced in ovariectomized female mice fed all soy protein-containing diets. Relative to mice fed isoflavone-containing soy protein isolate, atherosclerosis was reduced only in mice fed the beta-conglycinin-containing diet. Mean reductions were 39 and 67% (all P <0.05) in male and ovariectomized female apoE null mice and 66% (P < 0.05) in male LDL receptor null mice. These effects were unrelated to variation in isoflavone content of the protein source and only minimally related to plasma lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. We conclude that a diet rich in beta-conglycinin has atheroprotective effects that greatly exceed those of isoflavone-containing soy protein isolate and do not depend on LDL receptors or influences on plasma lipoproteins.