The present study was conducted to evaluate the mechanism by which n-3 PUFA regulates the inhibitor of κBα (IκBα)/NF-κB/muscle RING finger 1 (MuRF1) pathway in C2C12 myotubes. After treatment with 150, 300 or 600 μm-α-linolenic acid (ALA) or -EPA for 24 h in C2C12 myotubes, the levels of phosphorylated IκBα (p-IκBα) and total IκBα were measured by Western blot. Compared with the bovine serum albumin (BSA) control, 150 and 300 μm-ALA and -EPA, respectively, did not affect the total IκBα protein level (P>0·05). However, 600 μm-EPA, but not 600 μm-ALA, prevented IκBα phosphorylation and increased the total IκBα levels (P < 0·01). Furthermore, total nuclear protein was isolated and analysed by the electrophoretic mobility shift assay for NF-κB DNA-binding activity after treatment with 600 μm-ALA or -EPA for 24 h. EPA (600 μm), but not ALA (600 μm), decreased the NF-κB DNA-binding activity when compared with BSA (P < 0·01). It was further observed that 600 μm-EPA caused a 3·38-fold reduction in the levels of MuRF1 mRNA expression compared with BSA (P < 0·01). Additionally, 600 μm-EPA resulted in a 2·3-fold induction of PPARγ mRNA expression (P < 0·01). In C2C12 myotubes, PPARγ knockdown by RNA interference significantly decreased PPARγ mRNA and protein expression to approximately 50 and 60 % (P < 0·01), respectively. Interestingly, in C2C12 myotubes with PPARγ knockdown, 600 μm-ALA and -EPA did not affect the levels of p-IκBα and total IκBα, NF-κB DNA-binding activity or MuRF1 mRNA expression when compared with BSA (P>0·05). These results revealed that EPA, but not ALA, inhibited the IκBα/NF-κB/MuRF1 pathway in C2C12 myotubes in a PPARγ-dependent manner.