Mass spectrometric analysis of human plasma and urine revealed abundant nitrated derivatives of all principal unsaturated fatty acids. Nitrated palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic, linolenic, arachidonic and eicosapentaenoic acids were detected in concert with their nitrohydroxy derivatives. Two nitroalkene derivatives of the most prevalent fatty acid, oleic acid, were synthesized (9- and 10-nitro-9-cis-octadecenoic acid; OA-NO2), structurally characterized and determined to be identical to OA-NO2 found in plasma, red cells, and urine of healthy humans. These regioisomers of OA-NO 2 were quantified in clinical samples using 13C isotope dilution. Plasma free and esterified OA-NO2 concentrations were 619 ± 52 and 302 ± 369 nM, respectively, and packed red blood cell free and esterified OA-NO2 was 59 ± 11 and 155 ± 65 nM. The OA-NO2 concentration of blood is ∼50% greater than that of nitrated linoleic acid, with the combined free and esterified blood levels of these two fatty acid derivatives exceeding 1 μM. OA-NO2 is a potent ligand for peroxisome proliferator activated receptors at physiological concentrations. CV-1 cells co-transfected with the luciferase gene under peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) response element regulation, in concert with PPARγ, PPARα, or PPARδ expression plasmids, showed dose-dependent activation of all PPARs by OA-NO2. PPARγ showed the greatest response, with significant activation at 100 nM, while PPARα and PPARδ were activated at ∼300 nM OA-NO2. OA-NO2 also induced PPARγ-dependent adipogenesis and deoxyglucose uptake in 3T3-L1 preadipocytes at a potency exceeding nitrolinoleic acid and rivaling synthetic thiazolidinediones. These data reveal that nitrated fatty acids comprise a class of nitric oxide-derived, receptor-dependent, cell signaling mediators that act within physiological concentration ranges. © 2005 The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.