This study demonstrates that the expression of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPAR alpha) is regulated by glucocorticoid hormones in hepatocytes. Hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone stimulated PPAR alpha mRNA synthesis in a dose-dependent manner in primary rat hepatocyte cultures. This glucocorticoid stimulation was inhibited by RU 486, a specific glucocorticoid antagonist. Moreover, in contrast to glucocorticoid hormones, the mineralocorticoid aldosterone had only a weak effect, suggesting that the hormonal stimulation of PPAR alpha was mediated by the glucocorticoid receptor. The induction was not prevented by cycloheximide treatment of the hepatocytes, indicating that it was mediated by preexisting glucocorticoid receptor. Finally, the RNA synthesis inhibitor actinomycin D abolished the stimulatory effect of dexamethasone, and nuclear run-on analysis showed an increase of PPAR alpha transcripts after hormonal induction. Thus, the PPAR alpha gene is an early response gene of glucocorticoids that control its expression at the transcriptional level.