The interactions of human Sex steroid binding protein (SBP) and the lignans [Nordihydrogaiaretic acid (NDGA) enterolactone (Ent), enterodiol (End)] and isoflavonoid phytoestrogens [Equol (Eq), diazein Dad), genistein (Gen)] were studied. The phytoestrogens had different dose-dependent inhibitory effects on steroid binding by SBP. Their relative efficiencies were: Ent> or = NDGA = Eq > Gen for displacing E2 and Eq > Ent > NDGA > Gen for displacing T. End and Dad were much less active. Scatchard analysis suggested that NDGA had similar non- competitive effects on T and E2 binding by reducing the number of binding sites without changing the association constants. But Eq seemed to inhibit E2 binding non-competitively and T binding competitively. NDGA binding to SBP reduced the immunorecognition of SBP by monospecific anti-SBP antibodies, suggesting that NDGA changed SBP immunoreactivity. Unlike NDGA, Eq binding to SBP caused no immunological changes in SBP, indicating qualitative differences in the effects of the lignan and isoflavonoid. Our results indicate that phytoestrogens may modulate the SBP activity and so influence the role of this protein in the delivery of hormonal information to sex steroid-dependent cells.