The activity of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC) is regulated by covalent modification of its E1 component, which is catalyzed by specific pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases (PDKs) and phosphatases. In the liver, PDK2 and PDK4 are the most abundant PDK isoforms, which are responsible for inactivation of PDC when glucose availability is scarce in the body. In the present study, regulatory mechanisms of hepatic PDC were examined before and after the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats, using Long-Evans Tokushima Otsuka (LETO) rats as controls. Plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were at normal levels in rats aged 8 weeks, but were significantly higher in OLETF than in LETO rats aged 25 weeks, indicating insulin resistance in OLETF rats. Plasma free fatty acids (FFAs) were 1.6-fold concentrated, and the liver PDC activity was significantly lower in OLETF than in LETO rats at both ages, suggesting suppression of pyruvate oxidative decarboxylation in OLETF rats before and after the onset of diabetes. Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase activity and abundance of PDK2 and PDK4 proteins, as well as mRNAs, were greater in OLETF rats at both ages. These results suggest that persistently elevated levels of circulating free fatty acid in normal and diabetic OLETF rats play an important role in stimulating PDK2 and PDK4 expression in liver.