Daldinia concentrica and Psathyrella efflorescens are two fungi used in African traditional medicine. In the present study, their extracts were evaluated for their steroid activities in estrogen- or androgen-dependent cell lines using as endpoints steroid-dependent transcriptional activity and cell proliferation. Treatment of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells with 15 or 30 microg/ml of Daldinia concentrica or Psathyrellaefflorescens extracts in the absence of 17beta-estradiol (E2) significantly increased the transcriptional activity of an estrogen receptor (ER)-dependent reporter gene, in the same range as E2. Similar data were obtained in gonadotrope cell line alpha-T3-1. All the effects were prevented by the pure estrogen antagonist, ICI 182,780. In the absence of steroid addition, the two extracts induced cell proliferation of ER-dependent MCF-7 and Ishikawa Var-I cell lines by approximately 100% of the E2 response. Combination treatments with E2 showed no competitive or additive effects in the two latter cell lines. Interestingly, the extracts had no androgen-like response in androgen receptor (AR)-positive and ER-negative MDA-MB231 cells, suggesting that fungi effects are estrogen specific and extracts are not toxic at used concentrations. Results provided evidence that Daldinia concentrica or Psathyrellaefflorescens extracts induce estrogen-like effects in ER-positive cell lines, which could be responsible of the effects observed in vivo.