The steroid hormone 17β-estradiol and its respective receptors have been found in several cardiovascular nuclei in the central nervous system including the parabrachial nucleus. In a previous study, we provided evidence that 17β-estradiol attenuated an outward potassium conductance in parabrachial neurons of male rats, using an in vitro slice preparation. In this study we sought to enhance the comprehensive information provided previously on estradiol's postsynaptic effects in the parabrachial nucleus by directly examining whether 17β-estradiol application will modulate excitatory synaptic neurotransmission. Using a pontine slice preparation and whole-cell patch-clamp recording, bath application of either 17β-estradiol (20–100 μM) or BSA-17β-estradiol (50 μM) decreased the amplitude of evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (from 30–60% of control) recorded from neurons in the parabrachial nucleus. The paired pulse ratio was not significantly affected and suggests a post-synaptic site of action. The inhibitory effect on the synaptic current was relatively long-lasting (non-reversible) and was blocked by the selective estrogen receptor antagonist, ICI 182,780. Furthermore, 17β-estradiol reduced the maximum current elicited by a ramp protocol, increased the input resistance measured between resting membrane potential and action potential threshold and caused an increase in the firing frequency of the cells under current-clamp. In summary, 17β-estradiol caused 3 effects: first, a depolarization; second, a reduction in evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials; and third, an enhancement of action potential firing frequency in neurons of the parabrachial nucleus. These observations are consistent with our previous findings and support a role for estrogen in modulating neurotransmission in this nucleus. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.