Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, PPARs, (NR1C) are nuclear hormone receptors implicated in energy homeostasis. Upon activation, these ligand-inducible transcription factors stimulate gene expression by binding to the promoter of target genes. The different structural domains of PPARs are presented in terms of activation mechanisms, namely ligand binding, phosphorylation, and cofactor interaction. The specificity of ligands, such as fatty acids, eicosanoids, fibrates and thiazolidinediones (TZD), is described for each of the three PPAR isotypes, alpha (NR1C1), beta (NR1C2) and gamma (NR1C3), so as the differential tissue distribution of these isotypes. Finally, general and specific functions of the PPAR isotypes are discussed, namely their implication in the control of inflammatory responses, cell proliferation and differentiation, the roles of PPARalpha in fatty acid catabolism and of PPARgamma in adipogenesis.