We examined the effects of clofibric acid, a peroxisome proliferator, on the production of superoxide radicals, on the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), and on the expression of superoxide dismutases (SODs) in the human HepG2 hepatoma cell line. To this end, HepG2 cells were treated for 1 or 5 days with 0.25, 0.50, or 0.75 mM clofibric acid. The production of superoxide radicals was only enhanced in HepG2 cells exposed for 5 days to the different clofibric acid concentrations. However, this overproduction of superoxide radicals was not accompanied by increased rates of lipid peroxidation, as the MDA and 4-HNE levels did not change significantly. Manganese (Mn) SOD activity was increased when HepG2 cells were treated for 1 day with 0.50 or 0.75 mM clofibric acid. For this duration of treatment, no change was observed in total SOD and copper/zinc (Cu/Zn) SOD activities. For a 5-day treatment, total SOD and MnSOD activities as well as the enzyme apoprotein and MnSOD mRNA levels increased whatever the clofibric acid concentration used. This transcriptional induction of the MnSOD gene was correlated with an activation of the activator protein-1 transcription factor for 1 and 5 days of treatment, but was independent of nuclear factor-kappa B and of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor. On the other hand, the PP exerted very little effect if any on Cu,ZnSOD expression. In contrast to rodent data, PP treatment of human hepatoma cells induces MnSOD expression.