AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: It is postulated that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha agonists confer cardiovascular benefits in diabetes, independently of their effects on lipid metabolism. We investigated putative mechanisms responsible for these anti-atherogenic effects in an in vivo model of diabetes-associated atherosclerosis. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Control and streptozotocin-induced diabetic apolipoprotein-deficient mice received gemfibrozil (100 mg kg(-1) day(-1)) or no treatment for 20 weeks. Aortic plaque deposition was assessed by Sudan IV staining and subsequent en face quantification. Superoxide production was measured using lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence. Markers of pathways including inflammation and oxidative stress were measured using real-time RT-PCR. RESULTS: No significant effect of gemfibrozil was observed on glycated haemoglobin, cholesterol or insulin in diabetic mice. Diabetes was associated with a three-fold increase in plaque area and a significant increase in NADPH-dependent superoxide compared with control mice. Gemfibrozil significantly attenuated plaque area and superoxide production in diabetic mice. In addition, gemfibrozil reduced the expression of the genes encoding the NADPH oxidase subunits p47phox, gp91phox and Rac-1. In addition, gemfibrozil reduced the expression of the genes encoding nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB) subunit, p65, the NF-kappaB-dependent chemokine monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, and tissue factor. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATIONS: This study demonstrates that gemfibrozil exerts anti-atherogenic actions, independently of changes in cholesterol and glucose metabolism. Such findings emphasise the possible usefulness of fibrates such as gemfibrozil in a setting of atherosclerosis even in the absence of dyslipidaemia.