Although constipation is very common during pregnancy, the exact mechanism is unknown. We hypothesized that the involvement of estrogen receptor (ER) in the regulation of electrolyte transporter in the colon leads to constipation. In this study, the intestines of normal female ICR mouse and pregnant mice were examined for the expression of ERα and ERβ by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. ERβ, but not ERα, was expressed in surface epithelial cells of the proximal, but not distal, colon on pregnancy days 10, 15, and 18, but not day 5, and the number of ERβ-positive cells increased significantly during pregnancy. Expression of NHE3, the gene that harbors estrogen response element, examined by immunohistochemistry and western blotting, was localized in the surface epithelial cells of the proximal colon and increased in parallel with ERβ expression. In ovariectomized mice, NHE3 expression was only marginal and was up-regulated after treatment with 17β-estradiol (E(2)), but not E(2) + ICI 182,780 (estrogen receptor antagonist). Moreover, knock-down of ERβ expression by electroporetically transfected siRNA resulted in a significant reduction of NHE3 expression. These results indicate that ERβ regulates the expression of NHE3 in the proximal colon of pregnant mice through estrogen action, suggesting the involvement of increased sodium absorption by up-regulated NHE3 in constipation during pregnancy.