Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are insulin-sensitizing drugs currently used to treat type 2 diabetes. They are activators of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-gamma, and adipose tissue constitutes a major site for their biological effects. PPAR coactivator (PGC)-1alpha is a transcriptional coactivator of PPARgamma and other transcription factors. It is involved in the control of mitochondrial biogenesis, and its activity has been linked to insulin sensitization. Here we report that PGC-1alpha gene expression in brown and white adipocytes is a direct target of TZDs via PPARgamma activation. Activators of the retinoid X receptor also induce PGC-1alpha gene expression. This is due to the presence of a PPARgamma-responsive element in the distal region of the PGC-1alpha gene promoter that binds PPARgamma/retinoid X receptor heterodimers. Moreover, there is a positive autoregulatory loop of control of the PGC-1alpha gene through coactivation of PPARgamma responsiveness to TZDs by PGC-1alpha itself. These data indicate that some of the effects of TZDs, especially promotion of mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative pathways in adipose depots, entail PGC-1alpha up-regulation via enhanced transcription of the PGC-1alpha gene.