Reduction of the lipid burden of atherosclerotic lesion-associated macrophage foam cells is a logical strategy to reduce the plaque volume. Since extracellular cholesterol acceptor-mediated cholesterol efflux is the only recognized mechanism of cholesterol removal from foam cells and this process is rate limited at the level of intracellular cholesterol ester hydrolysis, a reaction catalyzed by neutral cholesteryl ester hydrolase (CEH), we examined the hypothesis that CEH overexpression in the human macrophage monocyte/macrophage cell line THP1 results in increased cholesterol efflux, as well as decreased cellular cholesterol ester accumulation. We generated THP1-CEH cells with stable integration of human macrophage CEH cDNA driven by the cytomegalovirus promoter. Compared with wild-type THP1 cells (THP1-WT), THP1-CEH cells showed increased CEH mRNA expression and increased CEH activity. Efflux of free or unesterified cholesterol by acetylated LDL-loaded THP1-CEH cells to ApoA-I by an ABCA1-dependent pathway or to HDL by an ABCG1-dependent pathway was significantly higher than that in THP1-WT cells. In addition, THP1-CEH cells accumulated significantly lower amount of esterified cholesterol. CEH overexpression, therefore, not only enhances cholesterol efflux but also reduces cellular accumulation of cholesteryl esters. Taken together, these data provide evidence for evaluating CEH expression in human macrophages as a potential target for attenuation of foam cell formation and regression of atherosclerotic plaques.