Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma) is a nuclear receptor that regulates diverse biological functions including inflammation. The PPARgamma ligands have been reported to exert cardioprotective effects and attenuate myocardial reperfusion injury. Here, we examined the molecular mechanisms of their anti-inflammatory effects. Male Wistar rats were subjected to myocardial ischemia and reperfusion and were treated with the PPAR-gamma ligands, 15-deoxy-Delta-prostaglandin J2 (15d-PGJ2) or ciglitazone, or with vehicle only, in the absence or presence of the selective PPAR-gamma antagonist GW-9662. In vehicle-treated rats, myocardial injury was associated with elevated tissue activity of myeloperoxidase, indicating infiltration of neutrophils, and elevated plasma levels of creatine kinase and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. These events were preceded by activation of the nuclear factor-kappaB pathway. The PPAR-gamma DNA binding was also increased in the heart after reperfusion. Treatment with ciglitazone or 15d-PGJ2 reduced myocardial damage and neutrophil infiltration and blunted creatine kinase levels and cytokine production. The beneficial effects of both ligands were associated with enhancement of PPAR-gamma DNA binding and reduction of nuclear factor-kappaB activation. Treatment with 15d-PGJ2, but not ciglitazone, enhanced DNA binding of heat shock factor 1 and upregulated the expression of the cardioprotective heat shock protein 70. Treatment with 15d-PGJ2, but not ciglitazone, also induced a significant increase in nuclear phosphorylation of the prosurvival kinase Akt. The cardioprotection afforded by ciglitazone was attenuated by the PPAR-gamma antagonist GW-9662. In contrast, GW-9662 did not affect the beneficial effects afforded by 15d-PGJ2. Thus, our data suggest that treatment with these chemically unrelated PPAR-gamma ligands results in diverse anti-inflammatory mechanisms.