The ob gene product, leptin, is a signaling factor regulating body weight and energy balance. ob gene expression in rodents is increased in obesity and is regulated by feeding patterns and hormones, such as insulin and glucocorticoids. In humans with gross obesity, ob mRNA levels are higher, but other modulators of human ob expression are unknown. In view of the importance of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) in adipocyte differentiation, we analyzed whether ob gene expression is subject to regulation by factors activating PPARs. Treatment of rats with the PPARalpha activator fenofibrate did not change adipose tissue and body weight and had no significant effect on ob mRNA levels. However, administration of the thiazolidinedione BRL49653, a PPARgamma ligand, increased food intake and adipose tissue weight while reducing ob mRNA levels in rats in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibitory action of the thiazolidinedione BRL49653 on ob mRNA levels was also observed in vitro. Thiazolidinediones reduced the expression of the human ob promoter in primary adipocytes, however, in undifferentiated 3T3-L1 preadipocytes lacking endogenous PPARgamma, cotransfection of PPARgamma was required to observe the decrease. In conclusion, these data suggest that PPARgamma activators reduce ob mRNA levels through an effect of PPARgamma on the ob promoter.