Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are estrogen receptor (ER) ligands exhibiting tissue-specific agonistic or antagonistic biocharacter and are used in the hormonal therapy for estrogen-dependent breast cancers. Pomegranate fruit has been shown to exert antiproliferative effects on human breast cancer cells in vitro. In this study, we investigated the tissue-specific estrogenic/antiestrogenic activity of methanol extract of pericarp of pomegranate (PME). PME was evaluated for antiproliferative activity at 20-320 μg/ml on human breast (MCF-7, MDA MB-231) endometrial (HEC-1A), cervical (SiHa, HeLa), ovarian (SKOV3) carcinoma and normal breast fibroblast (MCF-10A) cells. Competitive radioactive binding studies were carried out to ascertain whether PME interacts with ER. The reporter gene assay measured the estrogenic/antiestrogenic activity of PME in MCF-7 and MDA MB-231 cells transiently transfected with plasmids coding estrogen response elements with a reporter gene (pG5-ERE-luc) and wild-type ERα (hEG0-ER). PME inhibited the binding of [(3)H] estradiol to ER and suppressed the growth and proliferation of ER-positive breast cancer cells. PME binds ER and down-regulated the transcription of estrogen-responsive reporter gene transfected into breast cancer cells. The expressions of selected estrogen-responsive genes were down-regulated by PME. Unlike 17β-estradiol [1 mg/kg body weight (BW)] and tamoxifen (10 mg/kg BW), PME (50 and 100 mg/kg BW) did not increase the uterine weight and proliferation in ovariectomized mice and its cardioprotective effects were comparable to that of 17β-estradiol. In conclusion, our findings suggest that PME displays a SERM profile and may have the potential for prevention of estrogen-dependent breast cancers with beneficial effects in other hormone-dependent tissues.