The aim of this study was to analyze the heritability and the presence of pleiotropic effects on subfractions of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) as measured by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), parameters for adiposity, and glucose metabolism in adult Alaskan Eskimos. The present family study included 1,214 adult Alaskan Eskimos (537 male/677 female). Body weight, height, circumferences, selected skinfolds, and blood pressure were measured in all participants. Blood samples were collected under fasting conditions for the isolation of plasma. Glucose, insulin, subclasses and size of lipoproteins, triglycerides, total, and HDL cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) were measured in plasma. HbA1c was measured in total blood. Univariate and bivariate quantitative genetic analyses were conducted between HDL subclasses and size and the anthropometric and biochemical measures using the variance decomposition approach. Variation in all the analyzed traits exhibits a significant genetic component. Heritabilities ranged between 0.18 +/- 0.11 for LDL(2) (intermediate) and 0.89 +/- 0.07 for small HDL. No common genetic effects were found on the HDL subclasses (small, intermediate, and large). Small HDL particles were genetically correlated with LDL particles and HbA1c. Negative genetic correlations were observed between intermediate and large HDL subfractions, HDL size and measures of adiposity, and LDL and parameters for glucose metabolism (HbA1, insulin). These observations confirm the presence of possible pleiotropic effects on HDL, adiposity, and cardiovascular risk factors and provide novel insight on the relationship between HDL subclasses, adiposity, and glucose regulation.