It is known that various dietary plant proteins are capable of influencing the lipid metabolism of human subjects and animals when compared with casein. Less, however, is known about the effects of fish protein on the cholesterol and triacylglycerol metabolism. Therefore, two experiments were conducted in which rats were fed diets containing 200 g of either fish protein, prepared from Alaska pollack fillets, or casein, which served as control, per kilogram, over 20 and 22 d, respectively. As parameters of lipid metabolism, the concentrations of cholesterol and triacylglycerols in the plasma and liver, the faecal excretion of bile acids and the hepatic expression of genes encoding proteins involved in lipid homeostasis were determined. In both experiments, rats fed fish protein had higher concentrations of cholesteryl esters in the liver, a lower concentration of cholesterol in the HDL fraction (ρ>1·063 kg/l) and lower plasma triacylglycerol concentrations than rats fed casein (P<0.05). The gene expression analysis performed in experiment 2 showed that rats fed fish protein had higher relative mRNA concentrations of sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-2, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, LDL receptor, apo AI, scavenger receptor B1 and lecithin-cholesterol-acyltransferase in their liver than did rats fed casein (P<0·05). The faecal excretion of bile acids and the mRNA concentrations of cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase, SREBP-1c and corresponding target genes were not altered. These findings show that fish protein had multiple effects on plasma and liver lipids that were at least in part caused by an altered expression of the hepatic genes involved in lipid homeostasis.