Peroxisome proliferator chemicals (PPC) are thought to mediate their effects in rodents on hepatocyte growth and liver cancer through the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) alpha. Recent studies indicate that the plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) increased the incidence of liver tumors in PPARalpha-null mice. We hypothesized that some PPC, including DEHP, induce transcriptional changes independent of PPARalpha but dependent on other nuclear receptors, including the constitutive-activated receptor (CAR) that mediates phenobarbital (PB) effects on hepatocyte growth and liver tumor induction. To determine the potential role of CAR in mediating effects of PPC, a meta-analysis was performed on transcript profiles from published studies in which rats and mice were exposed to PPC and compared the profiles to those produced by exposure to PB. Valproic acid, clofibrate, and DEHP in rat liver and DEHP in mouse liver induced genes, including Cyp2b family members that are known to be regulated by CAR. Examination of transcript changes by Affymetrix ST 1.0 arrays and reverse transcription-PCR in the livers of DEHP-treated wild-type, PPARalpha-null, and CAR-null mice demonstrated that (1) most (approximately 94%) of the transcriptional changes induced by DEHP were PPARalpha-dependent, (2) many PPARalpha-independent genes overlapped with those regulated by PB, (3) induction of genes Cyp2b10, Cyp3a11, and metallothionine-1 by DEHP was CAR dependent but PPARalpha-independent, and (4) induction of a number of genes (Cyp8b1, Gstm4, and Gstm7) was independent of both CAR and PPARalpha. Our results indicate that exposure to PPARalpha activators including DEHP leads to activation of multiple nuclear receptors in the rodent liver.