15-Lipoxygenase (15-LOX)-2 is expressed in benign prostate secretory cells and benign prostate produces 15S-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (15S-HETE) from exogenous arachidonic acid (AA). In contrast, 15S-LOX-2 and 15S-HETE formation are reduced in prostate carcinoma (Pca). The mechanisms whereby reduced 15-LOX-2 may contribute to Pca development or progression are not known. We investigated the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma in benign and malignant prostate tissues and the ability of 15S-HETE to activate PPARgamma-dependent transcription and modulate proliferation of the Pca cell line PC3. In contrast to benign prostate and similar to most Pca tissues, 15-LOX-2 mRNA was not detected in PC3 cells, and they did not produce detectable 15-HETE from [14C]AA. By reverse transcription-PCR, PPARgamma mRNA was present in 18 of 18 benign and 9 of 9 tumor specimens. The PPARgamma ligand BRL 49653 and 15S-HETE caused a dose-dependent inhibition of PC3 proliferation in a 14-day soft agar colony-forming assay (IC50 of 3 and 30 microM, respectively). 15S-HETE (10 microM) caused greater inhibition than 10 microM 15R-HETE. At 3 days, BRL 49653 and 15S-HETE caused a slight increase in cells in G0-G1 and a corresponding decrease in cells in S phase. In PC3 cells transiently transfected with a luciferase reporter linked to a PPAR response element, 1 microM BRL 49653 and 10 microM 15S-HETE caused approximately threefold and greater than twofold induction of PPAR-dependent transcription, respectively. By quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR and Northern analysis, 3-day treatment with BRL 49653 and 15S-HETE caused a reduction of PPARgamma expression but a marked up-regulation of the PPAR response element containing adipocyte type fatty acid binding protein. These results support the hypothesis that 15-LOX-2-derived 15S-HETE may constitute an endogenous ligand for PPARgamma in the prostate and that loss of this pathway by reduced expression of 15-LOX-2 may contribute to increased proliferation and reduced differentiation in prostate carcinoma.