Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) interacts with retinoid X receptor (RXR) on PPAR response elements (PPREs) to regulate transcription of PPAR-responsive genes. To investigate the binding of PPARgamma and RXR to PPREs, three mutations were constructed in the DNA-binding domains of PPARgamma; two of the mutants maintained the structure of zinc finger I (PPARgamma-GS and PPARgamma-AA), and a third mutation disrupted the protein structure of zinc finger I (PPARgamma-CS). Results indicated that the mutations of PPARgamma that maintained intact zinc fingers were capable of binding to a variety of PPREs in the presence of RXR and could activate transcription on several PPREs. In parallel, a mutation was created in the DNA-binding domain of RXRalpha that maintained the structure of the zinc fingers (RXR-GS) but did not bind DNA and was transcriptionally inactive. Examination of the 3' half-site of several PPREs revealed that variations from the consensus sequence reduced or abolished transcriptional activity, but conversion to consensus improved transcriptional activity with PPARgamma-GS and PPARgamma-AA. Examination of the 5' half-site indicated that the upstream three nucleotides were more important for transcriptional activity than the downstream three nucleotides. Our data demonstrated that stringent binding of RXR to the 3' half-site of a PPRE is more influential on the binding of the PPARgamma/RXR heterodimer than the ability of PPARgamma to bind DNA. Thus, unlike RXR, PPARgamma exhibits promiscuity in binding on a PPRE, suggesting that the definition of a PPRE for PPARgamma may need to be expanded.