[en] Our aim was to study the effect of estradiol (E2) on pulsatile GnRH secretion in vitro in relation to sex and development. When hypothalamic explants obtained from 5- and 15-d-old female rats were exposed to E2 (10(-7) m), a reduction of GnRH interpulse interval (IPI) occurred but not at 25 and 50 d of age. This effect was prevented by the estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182.780 and the AMPA/kainate receptor antagonist DNQX but not by the AMPA and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonists SYM 2206 and MK-801. E2 did not affect GnRH IPI in hypothalamic explants obtained from male rats. Therefore, the possible relation between the female-specific effects of E2 in vitro and perinatal sexual differentiation was investigated. When using explants obtained from female rats masculinized through testosterone injection on postnatal d 1, E2 was no longer effective in vitro at 5 and 15 d. In addition, with explants obtained from male rats demasculinized through perinatal aromatase inhibitor treatment, E2 became capable of decreasing GnRH IPI in vitro at 15 d. To study the possible pathophysiological significance of early hypothalamic E2 effects, female rats received a single E2 injection on postnatal d 10. This resulted in reduced GnRH IPI in vitro on d 15 as well as advancement in age at vaginal opening and first estrus. In conclusion, E2 decreases the GnRH IPI in the immature female hypothalamus in vitro through a mechanism that depends on perinatal brain sexual differentiation and that could be involved in some forms of female precocious puberty.