AIM To assess the effect of 17β-estradiol pretreatment on the function and expression of α2- adrenergic receptors (ARs) subtypes in late pregnancy in rats. METHODS Sprague-Dawley rats (n=37) were treated with 17β-estradiol for 4 days starting from the 18th day of pregnancy. The myometrial expression of the α2-AR subtypes was determined by real time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis. In vitro contractions were stimulated with (-)-noradrenaline, and its effect was modified with the selective antagonists BRL 44408 (α2A), ARC 239 (α2B/C), and spiroxatrine (α2A). The cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) accumulation was also measured. The activated G-protein level was investigated by guanosine 5'-O-[gamma-thio]triphosphate (GTPγS) binding assay. RESULTS 17β-estradiol pretreatment decreased the contractile effect of (-)-noradrenaline via the α2-ARs, and abolished the contractile effect via the α2B-ARs. All the α2-AR subtypes' mRNA was significantly decreased. 17β-estradiol pretreatment significantly increased the myometrial cAMP level in the presence of BRL 44408 (P=0.001), ARC 239 (P=0.007), and spiroxatrine (P=0.045), but did not modify it in the presence of spiroxatrine + BRL 44408 combination (P=0.073). It also inhibited the G-protein-activating effect of (-)-noradrenaline by 25% in the presence of BRL 44408 + spiroxatrine combination. CONCLUSIONS The expression of the α2-AR subtypes is sensitive to 17β-estradiol, which decreases the contractile response of (-)-noradrenaline via the α2B-AR subtype, and might cause changes in G-protein signaling pathway. Estrogen dysregulation may be responsible for preterm labor or uterine inertia via the α2-ARs.