AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: The thiazolidinedione (TZD) rosiglitazone is a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma agonist that induces adipocyte differentiation and, hence, lipid accumulation. This is in apparent contrast to the long-term glucose-lowering, insulin-sensitising effect of rosiglitazone. We tested whether the action of rosiglitazone involves specific effects on mature adipocytes, which are different from those on preadipocytes. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Differentiated mature 3T3-L1 adipocytes were used as an in vitro model. Transcriptomics, proteomics and assays of metabolism were applied to assess the effect of rosiglitazone in different insulin and glucose conditions. RESULTS: Rosiglitazone does not induce an increase, but rather a decrease in the lipid content of mature adipocytes. Analysis of transcriptome data, confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR and measurements of lipolysis, indicates that an altered energy metabolism may underlie this change. The pathway analysis shows a consistent picture dominated by lipid catabolism. In addition, we confirmed at both mRNA level and protein level that rosiglitazone represses adipokine expression and production, except for genes encoding adiponectin and apolipoprotein E. Moreover, transcriptome changes indicate that a general repression of genes encoding secreted proteins occurs. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest that the change of adiposity as seen in vivo reflects a shift in balance between the different effects of TZDs on preadipocytes and on mature adipocytes, while the changes in circulating adipokine levels primarily result from an effect on mature adipocytes.