Fatty acid transport protein (FATP), a plasma membrane protein implicated in controlling adipocyte transmembrane fatty acid flux, is up- regulated as a consequence of adipocyte differentiation and down-regulated by insulin. Based upon the sequence of the FATP gene upstream region (Hui, T. Y., Frohnert, B. I., Smith, A. J., Schaffer, J. A., and Bernlohr, D. A. (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 27420-27429) a putative peroxisome proliferator- activated receptor response element (PPRE) is present from -458 to -474. To determine whether the FATP PPRE was functional, and responded to lipid activators, transient transfection of FATP-luciferase reporter constructs into CV-1 and 3T3-L1 cells was carried out. In CV-1 cells, FATP-luciferase activity was up-regulated 4- and 5.5-fold, respectively, by PPARα and PPARγ, in the presence of their respective activators in a PPRE-dependent mechanism. PPARδ, however, was unable to mediate transcriptional activation under any condition. In 3T3-L1 cells, the PPRE conferred a small but significant increase in expression in preadipocytes, as well as a more robust up-regulation of FATP expression in adipocytes. Furthermore, the PPRE conferred the ability for luciferase expression to be up-regulated by activators of both PPARγ and retinoid X receptor α (RXRα) in a synergistic manner. PPARα and PPARδ activators did not up-regulate FATP expression in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, however, suggesting that these two subtypes do not play a significant role in differentiation-dependent activation in fat cells. Electromobility shift assays showed that all three PPAR subtypes were able to bind specifically to the PPRE as heterodimers with RXRα. Nuclear extracts from 3T3-L1 adipocytes also showed a specific gel-shift complex with the FATP PPRE. To correlate the expression of FATP to its physiological function, treatment of 3T3-L1 adipocytes with PPARγ and RXRα activators resulted in an increased uptake of oleate. Moreover, linoleic acid, a physiological ligand, up-regulated FATP expression 2-fold in a PPRE-dependent manner. These results demonstrate that the FATP gene possesses a functional PPRE and is up- regulated by activators of PPARα and PPARγ, thereby linking the activity of the protein to the expression of its gene. Moreover, these results have implications for the mechanism by which certain PPARγ activators such as the antidiabetic thiazolidinedione drugs affect adipose lipid metabolism.