We have found that certain tetrasubstituted pyrazoles are high-affinity ligands for the estrogen receptor (ER) (Fink et al. Chem. Biol. 1999, 6, 205-219) and that one pyrazole is considerably more potent as an agonist on the ERalpha than on the ERbeta subtype (Sun et al. Endocrinology 1999, 140, 800-804). To investigate what substituent pattern provides optimal ER binding affinity and the greatest enhancement of potency as an ERalpha-selective agonist, we prepared a number of tetrasubstituted pyrazole analogues with defined variations at certain substituent positions. Analysis of their binding affinity pattern shows that a C(4)-propyl substituent is optimal and that a p-hydroxyl group on the N(1)-phenyl group also enhances affinity and selectivity for ERalpha. The best compound in this series, a propylpyrazole triol (PPT, compound 4g), binds to ERalpha with high affinity (ca. 50% that of estradiol), and it has a 410-fold binding affinity preference for ERalpha. It also activates gene transcription only through ERalpha. Thus, this compound represents the first ERalpha-specific agonist. We investigated the molecular basis for the exceptional ERalpha binding affinity and potency selectivity of pyrazole 4g by a further study of structure-affinity relationships in this series and by molecular modeling. These investigations suggest that the pyrazole triols prefer to bind to ERalpha with their C(3)-phenol in the estradiol A-ring binding pocket and that binding selectivity results from differences in the interaction of the pyrazole core and C(4)-propyl group with portions of the receptor where ERalpha has a smaller residue than ERbeta. These ER subtype-specific interactions and the ER subtype-selective ligands that can be derived from them should prove useful in defining those biological activities in estrogen target cells that can be selectively activated through ERalpha.