Premenopausal females have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than their male counterparts, but the mechanism is unclear. Estrogen has been thought to signal through two nuclear receptors: estrogen receptor-alpha or estrogen receptor-beta; however, a third, membrane-bound receptor G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER), has been identified and shown to bind estrogen with high affinity. To date, there is little information on GPER in the heart and no study has looked at the effect of GPER activation during myocardial ischemia-reperfusion (I/R). Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine whether activation of GPER is cardioprotective in rats. A highly specific GPER agonist, G-1, was administered to Sprague-Dawley (200-350 g) rat hearts 10 min before 20 min of ischemic followed by 120 min of reperfusion using a Langendorff model. Similar levels of GPER were found in both male and female rat hearts. With administration of 110 nM of G-1, postischemic contractile dysfunction was significantly reduced compared with untreated controls (43.8 + or - 4.3% vs. 26.9 + or - 2.1% of preischemic rate pressure product; P < 0.05). Additionally, infarct size was reduced in the G-1-treated animals when compared with control (18.8 + or - 2.7% vs. 32.4 + or - 2.1%; P < 0.05). These observations were demonstrated in both male and intact female rat hearts. Through Western blot analysis, it was demonstrated that G-1 induces the activation of both Akt and ERK1/2. Furthermore, the protection afforded by G-1 was blocked by coadministration of a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor (wortmannin, 100 nM). Taken together, the data show that G-1 activation of GPER improves functional recovery and reduces infarct size in isolated rat hearts following I/R through a PI3K-dependent, gender-independent mechanism.