Post-menopausal estrogen therapy is associated with a decreased incidence of Alzheimer disease and in vitro models have shown that 17beta-estradiol is effective in lowering amyloidogenic processing. To examine the effects of estrogen withdrawal and replacement on amyloid beta (Abeta) levels and amyloid beta-protein precursor (AbetaPP) processing in vivo, Swedish mutant AbetaPP transgenic mice were ovariectomized or sham ovariectomized at four weeks of age and treated with placebo or 17beta- or 17alpha-estradiol pellets, the latter being a weak estrogen receptor agonist. Compared to sham ovariectomized mice, ovariectomy with placebo did not alter Abeta levels; however, the levels of Abeta were decreased by 27% and 38% in mice treated with 17beta- and 17alpha- estradiol, respectively, with no change in AbetaPP holoprotein. Endogenous and exogenous estrogen both significantly increased the levels of sAbetaPPalpha, the secreted form of AbetaPP. The ratio of Abeta/sAbetaPPalpha, a measure of amyloidogenic processing, was reduced in all estrogen-containing groups. The Abeta lowering effect of 17beta- and 17alpha-estradiol was replicated when estrogens were administered at a more physiological dose in the drinking water, or when mice were ovariectomized at three months of age. The increased efficacy of 17alpha-estradiol versus 17beta-estradiol may help to develop safe and effective therapeutics.