The hypothesis was tested that plasma levels of adiponectin would be associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) across African-American and Caucasian ethnicity and gender. Adiponectin levels, cardiovascular risk factors, and extent of CAD were measured in 453 subjects (173 African-American and 280 Caucasian men and women). The distribution of adiponectin levels differed significantly between African-Americans and Caucasians (P<0.0001). Among African-Americans, the adiponectin distribution was skewed toward lower levels. For women, adiponectin levels were higher among Caucasians compared with African-Americans (P<0.001), whereas no interethnic difference was observed for men. Irrespective of ethnic group, subjects with CAD had lower levels of adiponectin than did subjects without CAD. Adiponectin was negatively and significantly associated with waist-hip ratio, body mass index, diastolic blood pressure, insulin level, and homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance in both ethnic groups. Among lipid parameters, total cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were negatively correlated with adiponectin, whereas the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level correlated positively for both African-Americans and Caucasians. In a multiple regression model, controlling for gender, ethnicity, and other CAD risk factors, adiponectin levels were negatively associated with CAD (P<0.05). The results indicate that, across gender and ethnicity, low adiponectin levels may be an independent risk factor for CAD.