Adiponectin, which is secreted specifically by adipose tissue, has been shown to act as an anti-atherosclerotic protein by direct effects on endothelial cells. Clinical studies have shown that adiponectin levels are lower in individuals with obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease. The present study investigated relationships between serum adiponectin levels and body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, insulin resistance index, lipid profile, uric acid and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels in a large number of Japanese subjects not taking any medication for metabolic disease and without severe illness (705 men and 262 women; age 30-65 years; BMI 22.5+/-2.9 kg/m(2)). The serum adiponectin concentration was measured by ELISA, without a protein-denaturing step. The insulin resistance index was assessed by homoeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR). The serum concentration of adiponectin in women (13.5+/-7.9 microg/ml) was significantly higher than that in men (7.2+/-4.6 microg/ml). The serum adiponectin level was negatively correlated with BMI, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, insulin, HOMA-IR, total cholesterol, triacylglycerols, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol and uric acid, and positively correlated with high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol. The correlations between serum adiponectin level and insulin, HOMA-IR, triacylglycerols, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and uric acid were significant even after adjustment for age, sex and BMI. Stepwise multiple regression analysis revealed that HDL-cholesterol, sex, BMI and HOMA-IR were independently correlated with the serum adiponectin level (R(2)=0.377). These findings suggest that the serum adiponectin level is negatively correlated with HOMA-IR and positively correlated with HDL-cholesterol, independent of age, sex and BMI, in the Japanese population.