Whether cardioprotection by postconditioning (PostC) is gender dependent is not clear. We studied the effect of PostC in terms of both infarct size (IS) and post-ischemic systolic dysfunction (PSD) reduction. Isolated male and female rat hearts were subjected to 10- or 30-min of global ischemia and 120-min of reperfusion, with or without PostC (i.e., 5 cycles of 10-s reperfusion/ischemia immediately after the ischemia). Surprisingly, after 10-min ischemia, IS and PSD were greater in female than male hearts (IS: 21 +/- 2% Vs. 11 +/- 2%; P < 0.01), while PostC attenuated IS and PSD in female hearts only. After 30-min ischemia IS was smaller in female than male hearts (52 +/- 2% Vs. 61 +/- 3%; P < 0.05), whereas PSD was similar in these two groups. PostC reduced IS in both genders, though the effect was smaller (P < 0.05) in females. Yet, PostC reduced PSD in female, but not in male hearts. Contracture development paralleled IS in all groups. To check the effects of buffer perfusion over heart function, additional hearts underwent 150-min buffer perfusion only. Contractile function of these hearts was not significantly affected over time. In conclusion IS, contracture and PSD are differently affected by gender, depending on ischemia duration. Yet, reduction of IS induced by PostC depends on the extension of IS induced by index-ischemia. While in female hearts reduction of PSD paralleled IS reduction, in male it does not occur. Results suggest that improvement of systolic function is mainly due to the anti-necrotic rather than to the anti-stunning effect exerted by PostC.