5-HT(7) receptors are present in thalamus and limbic structures, and a possible role of these receptors in the pathology of schizophrenia has been evoked. In this study, we examined binding affinity and agonist/antagonist/inverse agonist properties at these receptors of a large series of antipsychotics, i.e., typical, atypical, and third generation compounds preferentially targeting D(2) and 5-HT(1A) sites. Adenylyl cyclase (AC) activity was measured in HEK293 cells stably expressing the human (h) 5-HT(7a) receptor isoform. 5-HT and 5-CT increased cyclic adenosine monophosphate level by about 20-fold whereas (+)-8-OH-DPAT, the antidyskinetic agent sarizotan, and the novel antipsychotic compound bifeprunox exhibited partial agonist properties at h5-HT(7a) receptors stimulating AC. Other compounds antagonized 5-HT-induced AC activity with pK (B) values which correlated with their pK (i) as determined by competition binding vs [(3)H]5-CT. The selective 5-HT(7) receptor ligand, SB269970, was the most potent antagonist. For antipsychotic compounds, the following rank order of antagonism potency (pK (B)) was ziprasidone > tiospirone > SSR181507 > or = clozapine > or = olanzapine > SLV-314 > SLV-313 > or = aripiprazole > or = chlorpromazine > nemonapride > haloperidol. Interestingly, pretreatment of HEK293-h5-HT(7a) cells with forskolin enhanced basal AC activity and revealed inverse agonist properties for both typical and atypical antipsychotics as well as for aripiprazole. In contrast, other novel antipsychotics exhibited diverse 5-HT(7a) properties; SLV-313 and SLV-314 behaved as quasi-neutral antagonists, SSR181507 acted as an inverse agonist, and bifeprunox as a partial agonist, as mentioned above. In conclusion, the differential properties of third generation antipsychotics at 5-HT(7) receptors may influence their antipsychotic profile.