BACKGROUND/AIMS Mitochondrial biogenesis includes both mitochondrial proliferation and differentiation and its regulation under different physiological conditions is not clear. Given the sexual dimorphism previously found in mitochondrial function, the aim of this study was to investigate the gender-dependent effect of chronic high-fat-diet (HFD) feeding on rat liver mitochondrial function and biogenesis. METHODS Ten-week old male and female rats were fed a HFD (26% fat) or a control diet (2.9% fat) for 26 weeks. Mitochondrial morphology was studied. Mitochondrial DNA and protein content, hydrogen peroxide production, oxidative capacity, antioxidant defenses, as well as markers of oxidative damage and mitochondrial biogenesis were analyzed. RESULTS Female rats showed higher levels of mitochondrial protein and an enhanced oxidative capacity per mitochondrion than males. In both genders, HFD feeding increased mtDNA content and decreased mitochondrial differentiation markers. CONCLUSION In comparison to male rats, females show higher oxidative capacity as a consequence of their greater mitochondrial differentiation under both control and obese status. In response to HFD feeding, the oxidative capacity of the whole mitochondrial population is maintained in both genders. This is obtained by means of an enhancement of mitochondrial proliferation, which counteracts the diet-induced impairment of the function of each mitochondrion.