Several synthetic flavones were found to inhibit the aromatization of androstenedione to estrone catalyzed by human placental microsomes. Twenty-one compounds were tested and the IC50 of the most active were: flavone, 10 microM; 7-hydroxyflavone, 0.5 microM; 7,4'-dihydroxyflavone, 2.0 microM; flavanone, 8.0 microM; and 4'-hydroxyflavanone, 10 microM. Most of the others had IC50 values ranging from 80 to greater than 200 microM. These findings show that 4'-hydroxylation results in either no change or very little change in IC50 for flavanone, isoflavone and isoflavanone as well as other ring A hydroxylated flavones. Derivatives of flavone with a hydroxyl substituent at position 5, 6 and 7 were also screened. 7-Hydroxyflavone (11) was the most effective competitive inhibitor (IC50 = 0.5 microM) with an apparent Ki value of 0.25 microM. Compound 11 also induced a change in the absorption spectrum of the aromatase cytochrome P-450 which is indicative of substrate displacement. The relative binding affinities of the flavonoid analogs were determined and only ring A adn ring B dihydroxylated analogs were found to bind to the estrogen receptor.