Iron-mediated oxidation of low-density lipoprotein has been implicated in the pathogenesis of vascular disorders such as atherosclerosis. The present investigations were performed to test whether hydrophobic fungal siderophores - hexadentate trihydroxamates desferricoprogen, desferrichrome, desferrirubin, and desferrichrysin - might suppress heme-catalyzed LDL oxidation and the toxic effects of heme-treated LDL on vascular endothelium. Indeed, two of these - desferricoprogen and desferrichrome - markedly increased the resistance of LDL to heme-catalyzed oxidation. In similar dose-response fashion, these siderophores also inhibited the generation of LDL products cytotoxic to human vascular endothelium. When iron-free fungal siderophores were added to LDL/heme oxidation reactions, the product failed to induce heme oxygenase-1, a surrogate marker for the noncytocidal effects of oxidized LDL (not in the case of desferrichrysin). Desferricoprogen also hindered the ironmediated peroxidation of lipids from human atherosclerotic soft plaques in vitro, and was taken up in the gastrointestinal tract of rat. The absorbed siderophore was accumulated in the liver and was secreted in its iron-complexed form in the feces and urine. The consumption of mold-ripened food products such as aged cheeses and the introduction of functional foods and food additives rich in fungal iron chelators in diets may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.