Gender has an important influence on blood pressure, with premenopausal women having a lower arterial blood pressure than age-matched men. Compared with premenopausal women, postmenopausal women have higher blood pressures, suggesting that ovarian hormones may modulate blood pressure. However, whether sex hormones are responsible for the observed gender-associated differences in arterial blood pressure and whether ovarian hormones account for differences in blood pressure in premenopausal versus postmenopausal women remains unclear. In this review, we provide a discussion of the potential blood pressure regulating effects of female and male sex hormones, as well as the cellular, biochemical and molecular mechanisms by which sex hormones may modify the effects of hypertension on the cardiovascular system. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.