The physiological interplay of androgen and estrogen action in endocrine tissues is well recognized. The biochemical processes responsible for this interplay have yet to be fully defined. We have demonstrated that the androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha) can interact directly using the yeast and mammalian two-hybrid systems. These interactions occurred between the C-terminal ERalpha ligand-binding domain and either the N-terminal AR transactivational domain or the full-length AR. Estrogen receptor-beta (ERbeta) did not interact with the AR. DNA cotransfection studies employing AR, ERalpha and ERbeta expression vectors and AR- or ER-reporter gene constructs were used to identify and measure potential functional effects of AR-ER interaction. Coexpression of ERalpha with AR decreased AR transactivation by 35%; coexpression of AR with ERalpha decreased ERalpha transactivation by 74%. Coexpression of AR and ERbeta did not significantly modulate AR or ERbeta transactivation. In summary, we have shown that specific domains of AR and ERalpha physically interact and have demonstrated the functional consequences of such interaction. These results may help explain the nature of the physiological interplay between androgens and estrogens.