We studied the potential of both stereoisomers of 17-[123I]iodovinyloestradiol (E- andZ-[123I]IVE) and of 11-methoxy-17-[123I]iodovinyloestradiol (E-andZ-[123I]MIVE) as suitable radioligands for the imaging of oestrogen receptor(ER)-positive human breast tumours. The 17-[123I]iodovinyloestradiols were prepared stereospecifically by oxidative radio-iododestannylation of the corresponding 17-tri-n-butylstannylvi-nyloestradiol precursors. Competitive binding studies were performed in order to determine the relative binding affinity (RBA) of the unlabelled 17-iodovinyloes-tradiols for the ER in both human MCF-7 breast tumour cells and rat uterine tissue, compared with that of diethylstilboestrol (DES). Target tissue uptake, retention and uptake selectivity of their123I-labelled analogues were studied in immature female rats. All four 17-iodovi-nyloestradiols showed high affinity for the ER in human MCF-7 cells, as well as rat uterus. Their RBA for the ER showed the following order of decreasing potency: RBA of DES >Z-IVE >Z-MIVE >E-MIVE E-IVE. Neither of these 17-iodovinyloestradiols showed any significant binding to the sex hormone binding globulin in human plasma. The biodistribution studies showed ER-mediated uptake in the uterus, ovaries and pituitary, that ofE- andZ-[123I]MIVE being higher than that ofE- andZ-[123I]IVE. High target-to-non-target tissue uptake ratios, especially at longer periods after injection (up to 24 h), were exhibited by both isomers of [123I]MIVE. The uterus-to-blood uptake ratio was higher forE-[123I]MIVE. However, the uterus-to-fat uptake ratio appeared to be higher for theZ-isomer of [123I]MIVE, especially at 24 h after injection. Metabolic properties and temperature effects, which play a more important role in vivo, probably cause the discrepancies seen between in vitro and in vivo binding results. On the basis of their in vitro binding properties and in vivo distribution characteristics we conclude thatE- andZ-[123I]MIVE could be suitable radioligands for the diagnostic imaging of ER in human breast cancer. Therefore, further studies with these radioligands in mature normal and tumour-bearing rats are warranted.