Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-gamma controls growth, differentiation, and inflammation. PPAR-gamma agonists exert anti-inflammatory effects in vitro and inhibit the activation of pancreas stellate cells, implicated in the formation and progression of fibrosis. We determined the influence of troglitazone, a ligand for PPAR-gamma, on pancreatic damage and fibrosis in experimental chronic pancreatitis. Mice received six hourly intraperitoneal injections with 50 microg/kg of cerulein or saline, three times a week for 6 weeks. One week after the last injection all mice were sacrificed. Untreated mice were compared with mice treated with troglitazone either during weeks 1 to 6 or weeks 4 to 6. All mice that received cerulein injections displayed histopathological signs of chronic pancreatitis at week 7. Troglitazone treatment improved all markers for severity of pancreatitis. Moreover, early and postponed troglitazone treatments were equally effective in diminishing intrapancreatic fibrosis as quantified by Sirius red staining, hydroxyproline content, and laminin staining as well as the increased number of pancreatic stellate cells and pancreas levels of transforming growth factor-beta. Thus, troglitazone attenuated pancreatic damage and inflammation in experimental chronic pancreatitis and remained beneficial in a therapeutic setting when given after initial damage had been established.