Abstract Background Angotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a newly discovered monocarboxypeptidase that counteracts the vasoconstrictor effects of angiotensin II (Ang II) by converting Ang II to Ang-(1-7) in the kidney and other tissues. Methods ACE2 activity from renal homogenates was investigated by using the fluorogenic peptide substrate Mca-YVADAPK(Dnp)-OH, where Mca is (7-methoxycoumarin-4-yl)-acetyl and Dnp is 2,4-dinitrophenyl. Results We found that ACE2 activity expressed in relative fluorescence units (RFU) in the MF1 mouse is higher in the male (M) compared to the female (F) kidney [ACE2 (RFU/min/μg protein): M 18.1 ± 1.0 versus F 11.1 ± 0.39; P < 0.0001; n = 6]. Substrate concentration curves revealed that the higher ACE2 activity in the male was due to increased ACE2 enzyme velocity (Vmax) rather than increased substrate affinity (Km). We used the four core genotypes mouse model in which gonadal sex (ovaries versus testes) is separated from the sex chromosome complement enabling comparisons among XX and XY gonadal females and XX and XY gonadal males. Renal ACE2 activity was greater in the male than the female kidney, regardless of the sex chromosome complement [ACE2 (RFU/min/μg protein): intact-XX-F, 7.59 ± 0.37; intact-XY-F, 7.43 ± 0.53; intact-XX-M, 12.1 ± 0.62; intact-XY-M, 12.7 ± 1.5; n = 4-6/group; P < 0.0001, F versus M, by two-way ANOVA]. Enzyme activity was increased in gonadectomized (GDX) female mice regardless of the sex chromosome complement whereas no effect of gonadectomy was observed in the males [ACE2 (RFU/min/μg protein): GDX-XX-F, 12.4 ± 1.2; GDX-XY-F, 11.1 ± 0.76; GDX-XX-M, 13.2 ± 0.97; GDX-XY-M, 11.6 ± 0.81; n = 6/group]. 17β-oestradiol (E2) treatment of GDX mice resulted in ACE2 activity that was only 40% of the activity found in the GDX mice, regardless of their being male or female, and was independent of the sex chromosome complement [ACE2 (RFU/min/μg protein): GDX+E2-XX-F, 5.56 ± 1.0; GDX+E2-XY-F, 4.60 ± 0.52; GDX+E2-XX-M, 5.35 ± 0.70; GDX+E2-XY-M, 5.12 ± 0.47; n = 6/group]. Conclusions Our findings suggest sex differences in renal ACE2 activity in intact mice are due, at least in part, to the presence of E2 in the ovarian hormone milieu and not to the testicular milieu or to differences in sex chromosome dosage (2X versus 1X; 0Y versus 1Y). E2 regulation of renal ACE2 has particular implications for women across their life span since this hormone changes radically during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.