The long-chain acyl-coenzyme A synthetase (ACS) gene gives rise to three transcripts containing different first exons preceded by specific regulatory regions A, B, and C. Exon-specific oligonucleotide hybridization indicated that only A-ACS mRNA is expressed in rat liver. Fibrate administration induced liver C-ACS strongly and A-ACS mRNA to a lesser extent. B-ACS mRNA remained undetectable. In primary rat hepatocytes and Fa-32 hepatoma cells C-ACS mRNA increased after treatment with fenofibric acid, alpha-bromopalmitate, tetradecylthioacetic acid, or alpha-linolenic acid. Nuclear run-on experiments indicated that fenofibric acid and alpha-bromopalmitate act at the transcriptional level. Transient transfections showed a 3.4-, 2.3-, and 2.2-fold induction of C-ACS promoter activity after fenofibric acid, alpha-bromopalmitate, and tetradecylthioacetic acid, respectively. Unilateral deletion and site-directed mutagenesis identified a peroxisome proliferator activator receptor (PPAR)-responsive element (PPRE) mediating the responsiveness to fibrates and fatty acids. This ACS PPRE contains three imperfect half sites spaced by 1 and 3 oligonucleotides and binds PPAR.retinoid X receptor heterodimers in gel retardation assays. In conclusion, the regulation of C-ACS mRNA expression by fibrates and fatty acids is mediated by PPAR.retinoid X receptor heterodimers interacting through a PPRE in the C-ACS promoters. PPAR therefore occupies a key position in the transcriptional control of a pivotal enzyme controlling the channeling of fatty acids into various metabolic pathways.