Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha) activation by fibrates controls expression of several genes involved in hepatic cholesterol metabolism. Other genes could be indirectly controlled in response to changes in cellular cholesterol availability. To further understand how fibrates may affect cholesterol synthesis, we investigated in parallel the changes in the metabolic pathways contributing to cholesterol homeostasis in liver. Ciprofibrate increased HMG-CoA reductase and FPP synthase mRNA levels in rat hepatocytes, together with cholesterogenesis from [(14)C] acetate and [(3)H] mevalonate. The up-regulation observed in fenofibrate- and WY-14,643-treated mice was abolished in PPARalpha-null mice, showing an essential role of PPARalpha. Among the three sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) mRNA species, only SREBP-1c level was significantly increased. In ciprofibrate-treated hepatocytes, cholesterol efflux was decreased, in parallel with cholesteryl ester storage and bile acids synthesis. As expected, AOX expression was strongly induced, supporting evidence of the peroxisome proliferation. Taken together, these results show that fibrates can cause cholesterol depletion in hepatocytes, possibly in part as a consequence of an important requirement of cholesterol for peroxisome proliferation, and increase cholesterogenesis by a compensatory phenomenon afterwards. Such cholesterogenesis regulation could occur in vivo, in species responsive to the peroxisome proliferative effect of PPARalpha ligands.