Upstream transcription factor 1 (USF1), the first gene associated with familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL), regulates numerous genes of glucose and lipid metabolism. Phenotypic overlap between FCHL, type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome makes this gene an intriguing candidate in the disease process of these traits as well. As no disease-associated mutations in the coding region of USF1 have been identified, we addressed the functional role of intronic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which define the FCHL-risk alleles of USF1, and identified that a 20 bp DNA sequence, containing the critical intronic SNP, binds nuclear protein(s), representing a likely transcriptional regulatory element. This functional role is further supported by the differential expression of USF1-regulated genes in fat biopsy between individuals carrying different allelic variants of USF1. Importantly, apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the most downregulated gene in the risk individuals, linking the potential risk alleles of USF1 with the impaired APOE-dependent catabolism of atherogenic lipoprotein particles.