Bioactive compounds reported to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis are linked to many health benefits such increased longevity, improved energy utilization, and protection from reactive oxygen species. Previously studies have shown that mice and rats fed diets lacking in pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) have reduced mitochondrial content. Therefore, we hypothesized that PQQ can induce mitochondrial biogenesis in mouse hepatocytes. Exposure of mouse Hepa1-6 cells to 10-30 microm PQQ for 24-48 h resulted in increased citrate synthase and cytochrome c oxidase activity, Mitotracker staining, mitochondrial DNA content, and cellular oxygen respiration. The induction of this process occurred through the activation of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1alpha (PGC-1alpha), a pathway known to regulate mitochondrial biogenesis. PQQ exposure stimulated phosphorylation of CREB at serine 133, activated the promoter of PGC-1alpha, and increased PGC-1alpha mRNA and protein expression. PQQ did not stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis after small interfering RNA-mediated reduction in either PGC-1alpha or CREB expression. Consistent with activation of the PGC-1alpha pathway, PQQ increased nuclear respiratory factor activation (NRF-1 and NRF-2) and Tfam, TFB1M, and TFB2M mRNA expression. Moreover, PQQ protected cells from mitochondrial inhibition by rotenone, 3-nitropropionic acid, antimycin A, and sodium azide. The ability of PQQ to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis accounts in part for action of this compound and suggests that PQQ may be beneficial in diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.