We examined the effects of a variety of ligands/activators of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) on the expression of the superoxide scavenger enzyme, Cu2+,Zn2+-superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD), and the superoxide generating enzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (reduced form) (NADPH) oxidase in primary cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and human aorta endothelial cells (HAEC). Our data show that 3 types of PPARs, PPARalpha, PPARbeta/delta/Nuc1, and PPARgamma are expressed in endothelial cells. Bezafibrate, which is a ligand/activator for PPARalpha, increased the CuZn-SOD gene expression and protein levels in endothelial cells. Troglitazone and pioglitazone, which are ligands/activators for PPARgamma, also induced PPARalpha gene and protein expression and increased CuZn-SOD gene expression and protein levels in addition to increasing PPARgamma gene and protein expression in endothelial cells. Moreover, with treatment of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), the CuZn-SOD mRNA levels were positively correlated with PPARalpha mRNA levels (r = .872, P < .0001) in primary endothelial cells. In addition, the phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)-stimulated or PMA-nonstimulated 22-kd a-subunit (p22phox) mRNA levels and 47-kd a-subunit (p47phox) protein levels in NADPH oxidase were decreased by treatment with PPARalpha and PPARgamma ligands/activators. These results suggest that PPARalpha and PPARgamma gene and protein expression in endothelial cells may play a physiologic role as radical scavengers, although the details of these mechanisms remain to be established.