Although gender differences exist in cardiovascular endothelial function, it remains unclear whether such differences are also seen in small intestinal endothelial function. To determine this, untreated male, age-matched proestrus female, castrated male, and 17β-estradiol (E2)-treated noncastrated male rats were studied. Dose response curves to ACh and nitroglycerin (NTG) were determined by measuring changes in perfusion pressure by using an isolated small intestinal perfusion model. Endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) production/release was indirectly determined by the ability of intact endothelium to suppress serotonin (10-5 M)-induced perfusion pressure changes. Intestinal tissue levels of NO were also measured. Moreover, plasma levels of androgen and E2 were determined and correlated with ACh (10-8 M)-induced perfusion pressure reductions. ACh-induced intestinal perfusion pressure reductions in proestrus females, castrated males, and E2-treated noncastrated males were significantly higher than in untreated males. NTG-induced perfusion pressure reductions were not significantly different among groups. Perfusion pressures after administration of serotonin (10 -5 M) and intestinal tissue levels of NO in proestrus females, castrated males, and E2-treated noncastrated males were also significantly higher than in untreated males. Plasma androgen levels in proestrus females, castrated males, and in E2-treated noncastrated males were significantly lower compared with untreated males. There was a positive correlation between plasma androgen and ACh-reduced perfusion pressure; however, E2 levels did not show a similar relationship. Thus androgens appear to play an inhibitory role in small intestinal endothelial function. These properties in male vessels can be modulated by decreasing the level of circulating androgens or by E2 treatment.