Poly(butylcyanoacrylate) nanoparticles were produced by emulsion polymerisation and used either uncoated or overcoated with polysorbate 80 (Tween 80). [3H]-dalargin bound to nanoparticles overcoated with polysorbate 80 or in the form of saline solution was injected into mice and the brain concentrations of radioactivity determined. Statistically significant, three-fold higher brain concentrations with the nanoparticle preparations were obtained after 45 minutes, the time of greatest pharmacological response assessed as analgesia in previous experiments. In addition the brain inulin spaces in rats and the uptake of fluoresceine isothiocyanate labelled nanoparticles in immortalised rat cerebral endothelial cells, (RBE4) were measured. The inulin spaces after i.v. injection of polysorbate 80-coated nanoparticles were significantly increased by 1% compared to controls. This is interpreted as indicating that there is no large scale opening of the tight junctions of the brain endothelium by the polysorbate 80-coated nanoparticles. In in vitro experiments endocytic uptake of fluorescent nanoparticles by RBE4 cells was only observed after polysorbate 80-overcoating, not with uncoated particles. These results further support the hypothesis that the mechanism of blood-brain barrier transport of drugs by polysorbate 80-coated nanoparticles is one of endocytosis followed by possible transcytosis. The experiments were conducted in several laboratories as part of an EEC/INTAS collaborative program. For various procedural and regulatory reasons this necessitated the use of both rats and mice as experimental animals. The brain endothelial cell line used for the in vitro studies is the rat RBE4.