Linalool is a monoterpene compound reported to be a major component of essential oils of several aromatic species. Several linalool-producing species are used in traditional medical systems for sedative purposes, including the interruption and prevention of seizures. Previous studies in mice revealed that linalool modulates glutamatergic (competitive antagonism of L-[(3)H]glutamate binding, delayed intraperitoneal NMDA-induced convulsions and blockade of intracerebroventricular Quin-induced convulsions) and GABAergic transmission (protection against pentylenetetrazol and picrotoxin-induced convulsions). To further clarify the anticonvulsive mechanisms of linalool, we studied the effects of linalool on binding of [(3)H]MK801 (NMDA antagonist) and [(3)H]muscimol (GABA(A) agonist) to mouse cortical membranes. Linalool showed a dose dependent non-competitive inhibition of [(3)H]MK801 binding (IC(50) = 2.97 mM) but no effect on [(3)H]muscimol binding. The data suggest that the anticonvulsant mode of action of linalool includes a direct interaction with the NMDA receptor complex. The data do not, however, support a direct interaction of linalool with GABA(A) receptors, although changes in GABA-mediated neuronal inhibition or effects on GABA release and uptake cannot be ruled out.