Characterization of the estrogen receptor in cytosol from human male liver was undertaken to further understanding of the molecular basis of estrogen action in this tissue. By analysis of estrogen binding data of crude cytosol, saturable estrogen binding showed a Kd = 4.7 X 10(-10) M. High levels of nonsaturable binding were also detected. The estrogen-binding activities detected could be distinguished by their steroid specificity, hydrodynamic parameters, ionic properties, and sensitivity to proteolytic attack. Our findings also confirmed that the moderate-affinity estrogen binders found in rodent liver cannot be detected in human tissue. We concluded that the properties of estrogen receptor of human liver cytosol allow its separation from nonsaturable estrogen-binding components.