The physiological responses of the rodent uterus to acute estrogen (E) dosing can be divided into early and late events. Examples of early responses include increased RNA transcription, hyperemia, and water imbibition 2 and 6 h following E administration respectively, whereas later responses include cycles of DNA synthesis and mitosis of epithelial cells beginning 10 and 16 h after E. The development of estrogen receptor (ER) knockout (ERKO) mice, combined with microarray technology, has allowed us to design a genomic approach to study the acute response of the rodent reproductive tract to E. To determine whether early and late biological responses are correlated with altered regulation of a single set of genes or distinct sets of genes characteristic of early and late responses, uterine RNA was obtained from ovariectomized mice that were treated with vehicle or with estradiol for 2 h (early) or 24 h (late). Samples were also prepared from identically treated mice that lacked either ERalpha (alphaERKO) or ERbeta (betaERKO) to address the relative contributions of the ERs in the uterine responses. Microarray analysis of the relative expression of 8700 mouse cDNAs indicated distinct clusters of genes that were regulated both positively and negatively by E in the early or late phases as well as clusters of genes regulated at both times. Both early and late responses by the betaERKO samples were indistinguishable from those of WT samples, whereas the alphaERKO showed little change in gene expression in response to E, indicating the predominant role for ERalpha in the genomic response. Further studies indicated that the genomic responses in samples from intermediate time points (6 h, 12 h) fall within the early or late clusters, rather than showing unique clusters regulated in the intermediary period. The use of this genomic approach has illustrated how physiological responses are reflected in genomic patterns. Furthermore, the identification of functional gene families that are regulated by E in the uterus combined with the utilization of genetically altered experimental animal models can help to uncover and define novel mechanisms of E action.