The role of estrogen and the estrogen receptor (ER) in the induction and promotion of tumors was investigated by using transgenic MT-mER mice, which overexpress the ER. It was hypothesized that because of this abnormal expression of the ER, the reproductive-tract tissues of the MT-mER mice may be more susceptible to tumors after neonatal exposure to the potent synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES). Normally non-estrogen responsive tissues that may have expressed ER as a result of the transgene were also studied for DES-induced tumors. Wild-type and MT-mER littermates were treated with 2 micrograms/pup/d DES 1-5 d after birth and then killed at 4, 8, 12, and 18 mo of age. The DES-treated MT-mER mice demonstrated a significantly higher incidence of uterine adenocarcinoma at 8 mo (73%) than the DES-treated wild-type mice (46%). The tumors of the MT-mER mice were often more aggressive than those in the wild-type animals. These tumors were also preceeded at 4 mo by a significantly higher incidence of the preneoplastic lesion atypical hyperplasia in the MT-mER mice (26% compared with 0% in the wild-type mice). Other DES-induced abnormalities were observed at equal rates in the wild-type and MT-mER mice. Although no tumors were observed in untreated wild-type females, a single untreated MT-mER female had uterine adenocarcinoma at 18 mo. These data indicate that the level of ER present in a tissue may also be a determining factor in development of estrogen-responsive tumors.