This study aimed to examine the anti-proliferative effects of alpha-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols (alpha T3, gamma T3 and delta T3), and alpha-tocopherol on 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Results showed that compared with other vitamin E analogues, gamma T3 demonstrated the most potent anti-proliferative effect on 3T3-L1 cells. It significantly caused a reduction in mitochondrial membrane potential (Delta psi m) and an increase in ROS formation, as well as inducing cell apoptosis and cell cycle arrest at S phase. Further studies showed that it down-regulated Bcl-2 and PPAR-gamma expression, suppressed Akt and ERK activation and phosphorylation, and caused cytochrome c release from mitochondria to cytosol, whereas it up-regulated CD95 (APO-1/CD95) and Bax expression, and caused caspase-3 and JNK activation, PARP cleavage and AMPK phosphorylation. Pretreatments with caspase-3 (z-DEVD-fmk) and AMPK (CC) inhibitors significantly suppressed the gamma T3-induced ROS production and cell death. Caspase-3 inhibitor also efficiently blocked CD95 (APO-1/CD95) and Bax expression, caspase-3 activation and PARP cleavage, whereas antioxidant N-acetyl-L-cysteine, AMPK inhibitor and AMPK siRNA effectively blocked the AMPK phosphorylation. Taken together, these results conclude that the potent anti-proliferative and anti-adipogenic effects of gamma T3 on 313-L1 adipocytes could be through the Bax-mediated mitochondrial and AMPK signaling pathways. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.