The search for synthetic peptide analogues of somatostatin (SRIF) which exhibit selective affinities for the five known receptor subtypes (sst1-5) has generated a large number of potent agonists. Some of these agonists display good subtype selectivities and affinities for the subtypes 1, 2, 3, and 5, including analogues created by N-methyl amino acid substitutions in a standard octapeptide analogue format. We have now extended this peptide backbone N-methylation approach to a potent somatostatin receptor antagonist series using the antagonist Cpa-cyclo(DCys-Pal-DTrp-Lys-Thr-Cys)-Nal-NH2 9 reported from this laboratory as the lead structure. Synthetic analogues were tested for their ability to inhibit somatostatin-stimulated GH release from rat pituitary cells in culture and to displace 125I-labeled somatostatin from CHO cells transfected with the five known human somatostatin receptors. Several interesting observations resulted from the study. N-Methylation at the Lys(9) residue (5) increased the rat GH release inhibitory potency nearly 4-fold to 0.73 nM but resulted in little change in the binding affinity for human type 2 receptor. This analogue also had a high affinity of 5.98 nM for sst5 receptor (compared to 1.4 nM for somatostatin itself) and is the first antagonist analogue to be reported with high affinity for sst5. It also had high potency on in vitro inhibition of sst5 mediated intracellular calcium mobilization. These results were considered surprising, since the Lys(9) residue has long been considered to constitute the active center of somatostatin, important both for receptor binding and activation, and suggests important conformational differences between D-Cys(9) somatostatin antagonists and normal agonist structures. More modifications were carried out on this analogue with the aim of improving antagonist potency and/or specificity. Tyr(7) substitution of 5 resulted in an analogue, which had the highest affinity in the series for hsst2 (K(I) 5.51 nM) and an extraordinarily low IC50 of 0.53 nM in the rat pituitary cell assay. However, this analogue lost considerable affinity for sst5 relative to analogue 5. Analogue 16 with DTrp(12) at C-terminus had the highest affinity for hsst2, however, the IC50 in the rat GH release assay was only 11.6 nM. Replacement of Lys(9) in 9 with Dab(9) gave 11 which displayed high binding affinity for sst3, and it was also quite selective for that receptor. Both the sst3 and sst5 antagonists should be of value in assigning the physiological roles to type 3 and 5 receptor, respectively.