Administration of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) ligands, thiazolidinediones (TZD), to prepartum dairy cattle has been shown to improve dry matter intake and decrease circulating nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) around the time of calving. The objective of this work was to elucidate mechanisms of TZD action in transition dairy cattle by investigating changes in plasma leptin, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), the revised quantitative insulin sensitivity check index (RQUICKI), and adipose tissue gene expression of leptin, PPARγ, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), and fatty acid synthase (FAS). Multiparous Holstein cows (n=40) were administered 0, 2.0, or 4.0 mg of TZD/kg of body weight (BW) by intrajugular infusion once daily from 21 d before expected parturition until parturition. Plasma samples collected daily from 22 d before expected parturition through 21 d postpartum were analyzed for glucose, NEFA, and insulin. Plasma samples collected on d -14, -3, -1, 1, 3, 7, 14, and 49 relative to parturition were also analyzed for leptin and TNFα. Adipose tissue was collected on d 7 before expected parturition from a subset of cows, and gene expression was examined via quantitative real-time PCR. A tendency for a treatment by time effect on plasma leptin prepartum was observed such that values were similar on d -14 but cows receiving 2.0 mg/kg of BW of TZD tended to have lower circulating leptin as calving approached. Postpartum leptin tended to be increased linearly (2.3, 2.4, and 2.5±0.1 ng/mL for 0, 2.0, and 4.0 mg/kg treatments, respectively) in cows that received TZD prepartum. Plasma TNFα increased linearly (2.6, 3.7, and 4.0±0.1 pg/mL) in response to TZD treatment and decreased through the first week postpartum. Calculation of RQUICKI 1/[log(glucose)+log(insulin)+log(NEFA)] suggested altered insulin sensitivity in cows administered TZD that may depend on day relative to calving. Administration of TZD increased adipose tissue expression of PPARγ mRNA (11.0, 13.3, and 12.8±1.9). Administration of TZD had a quadratic effect on gene expression of leptin (16.2, 10.7, and 17.4±1.6) and no effect on LPL expression, and expression of FAS was lower for TZD-treated cows than for controls (8.2, 4.2, and 6.1±1.8, respectively). Results imply altered expression and plasma concentrations of leptin, increased plasma TNFα concentrations, and increased expression of PPARγ in adipose tissue as potential mechanisms for the effects of TZD administration on transition dairy cattle.