Foam cell formation is the hallmark of early atherosclerosis. It was found that the intracellular bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae induces foam cell formation by human monocyte-derived macrophages. Exposure of macrophages to C. pneumoniae followed by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) caused a marked increase in the number of foam cells and accumulation of cholesteryl esters. Foam cell formation was not inhibited by the antioxidant butylated hydroxytoluene nor fucoidan, suggesting that lipid accumulation did not involve scavenger receptors. In contrast, addition of heparin, which blocks binding of LDL to the LDL receptor, inhibited C. pneumoniae-induced foam cell formation, suggesting that the pathogen induced lipid accumulation by dysregulating native LDL uptake or metabolism (or both). These data demonstrate that an infectious agent can induce macrophage foam cell formation and implicate C. pneumoniae as a causative factor in atherosclerosis.