17beta-Estradiol, the most potent circulating estrogen, has been shown to greatly impact on the development and formation of tissues of the urogenital tract. The adult kidney has previously been shown to be highly responsive to 17beta-estradiol stimulation. However, the direct effect of 17beta-estradiol on kidney development remains unclear. Aim: To investigate the direct effect of 17beta-estradiol on male and female metanephric kidney development. Methods: Whole embryonic-day-12.5 (E12.5) C57Bl/6 male and female mouse metanephroi were cultured in the presence of varying concentrations of 17beta-estradiol (0.1-5.0 nM) for 72 h. Metanephric development was assessed using immunofluorescence labeling techniques. The real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to investigate estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha), glial-cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and its associated receptor cRET, transforming growth factor-beta (TGFbeta1), TGFbeta2 and TGFbeta3 mRNA expression levels. Results:ERalpha was present in developing metanephroi at E12.5; however, ERbeta was absent. No significant sex difference in ERalpha mRNA expression was observed. Significant increases in the number of ureteric branch points, terminal tips and developing glomeruli were observed in female metanephroi cultured in the presence of 1.0 and 5.0 nM 17beta-estradiol. Conversely, no significant effect was observed in male metanephroi cultured with 17beta-estradiol. GDNF and cRET mRNA expression was increased in both male and female metanephroi, whilst TGFbeta1 and TGFbeta2 mRNA expression was decreased following culture in the presence of 17beta-estradiol. Conclusion: This study is the first to establish that the mouse metanephros displays a sexual dimorphism in response to specific concentrations of estrogens.