The oxygenated-metabolite profiles of exogenous 17 beta-oestradiol (E2) in adult male and female Wistar rats have been characterized and major sex-dependent biotransformations observed which correlate with the regioselectivities of known sexually differentiated hepatic P450. [6,7-3H]E2 (27 micrograms/kg) was given i.v. The metabolites of E2 were rapidly and extensively excreted in bile (46 and 78% of the dose over 1 and 6 h, respectively). Female rats metabolized E2 by one major pathway: oxidation to oestrone (E1) followed by C-2 hydroxylation and O-methylation; the principal aglycones (0-1 h bile collections) were E1 (14%), 2-hydroxyE1 (2-OHE1) (42%) and 2-methoxyE1 (24%). Male rats metabolized E2 principally by two parallel composite pathways of E1 hydroxylation which yielded a complex mixture of mono- and di-oxygenated compounds: 15 alpha-OHE1 (33%), 2,15 alpha-diOHE1 (7%), and 2-methoxy-15 alpha OHE1 (14%); 16 alpha-OHE1 (13%), 2,16 alpha-diOHE1 (4%) and 2-methoxy-16 alpha-OHE1 (2%). 15 alpha-Hydroxylation was unique to males. The balance of aromatic and alkyl hydroxylation in males was dose-dependent: at 3 mg/kg, 15 alpha-hydroxylation was decreased approx. 50% in favour of 2-hydroxylation whilst 16 alpha-hydroxylation was largely unaffected. The male-specific 15 alpha-hydroxylation and male-predominant 16 alpha-hydroxylation of E1 derived from E2 in vivo may be ascribable to the male-specific isoforms P450IIC13 and P450IIC11, respectively.