Although several tritiated agonists have been used for radiolabelling serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT)(1B) receptors in rats, data with a selective, radiolabelled antagonist have not been presented. Inasmuch as [3H]GR125,743 specifically labels cloned, human and native guinea pig 5-HT(1B) receptors and has been employed for characterization of cerebral 5-HT(1B) receptor in the latter species [Eur. J. Pharmacol. 327 (1997) 247.], the present study evaluated its utility for characterization of native, cerebral 5-HT(1B) sites in the rat. In homogenates of frontal cortex, [3H]GR125,743 (0.8 nM) showed rapid association (t(1/2)=3.4 min), >90% specific binding and high affinity (K(d)=0.6 nM) for a homogeneous population of receptors with a density (B(max)) of 160 fmol/mg protein. In competition binding studies, affinities were determined for 15 chemically diverse 5-HT(1B) agonists, including 2-[5-[3-(4-methylsulphonylamino)benzyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-5-yl]-1H-indole-3-yl]ethylamine (L694,247; pK(i), 10.4), 5-carboxamidotryptamine (5-CT; 9.7), 3-[3-(2-dimethylamino-ethyl)-1H-indol-6-yl]-N-(4-methoxybenzyl)acrylamide (GR46,611; 9.6), 5-methoxy-3-(1,2,5,6-tetrahydro-4-pyridinyl)-1H-indole (RU24,969; 9.5), dihydroergotamine (DHE; 8.6), 5-H-pyrrolo[3,2-b]pyridin-5-one,1,4-dihydro-3-(1,2,3,6-tetrahydro-4-pyridinyl (CP93,129; 8.4), anpirtoline (7.9), sumatriptan (7.4), 1-[2-(3-fluorophenyl)ethyl]-4-[3-[5-(1,2,4-triazol-4-yl)-1H-indol-3-yl]propyl]piperazine (L775,606; 6.4) and (minus sign)-1(S)-[2-[4-(4-methoxyphenyl)piperazin-1-yl]ethyl]-N-methyl-3,4-dihydro-1H-2-benzopyran-6-carboxamide (PNU109,291; <5.0). Similarly, affinities were established for 13 chemically diverse antagonists, including N-[4-methoxy-3-(4-methylpiperazin-1-yl)phenyl]-3-methyl-4-(4-pyridyl)benzamide (GR125,743; pK(i), 9.1), (-)cyanopindolol (9.0), (-)-tertatolol (8.2), N-(4-methoxy-3-(4-methylpiperazin-1-yl)phenyl]-2'-methyl-4'-(5-methyl-1,2,4-oxadiozol-3-yl)biphenyl-4-carboxamide (GR127,935; 8.2), N-[3-(1,4-benzodioxan-5-yl)piperidin-4-yl]N-(indan-2yl)amine (S18127; 7.9), metergoline (7.8), (-)-pindolol (7.6), 1'-methyl-5-[2'-methyl-4'-(5-methyl-1,2,4-oxadiazol-3-yl)-biphenyl-4-ylcarbonyl]-2,3,6,7-tetrahydro-5H-spiro[furo[2,3-f]indole-3,4'-piperidine] (SB224,289; 7.5) and ketanserin (<5.0). These rank orders of affinity correspond to the binding profile of 5-HT(1B) rather than 5-HT(1D) receptors. The low affinities of L775,066 and PNU109,291 versus L694,247 should be noted, as well as the low affinity of ketanserin as compared to SB224,289. Finally, in line with species differences, the affinities of several ligands including CP93,129, RU24,969, (-)-pindolol and (-)-propanolol in rat 5-HT(1B) sites were markedly different to guinea pig 5-HT(1B) sites labelled with [3H]GR125,743. In conclusion, [3H]GR125,743 is an appropriate tool for the radiolabelling of native, rat 5-HT(1B) receptors and permitted determination of the affinities of an extensive series of ligands at these sites.