To identify inhalational anesthetic binding domains in a ligand-gated ion channel, we photolabeled nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)-rich membranes from Torpedo electric organ with [(14)C]halothane and determined by Edman degradation some of the photolabeled amino acids in nAChR subunit fragments isolated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and high-performance liquid chromatography. Irradiation at 254 nm for 60 s in the presence of 1 mM [(14)C]halothane resulted in incorporation of approximately 0.5 mol of (14)C/mol of subunit, with photolabeling distributed within the nAChR extracellular and transmembrane domains, primarily at tyrosines. GammaTyr-111 in ACh binding site segment E was labeled, while alphaTyr-93 in segment A was not. Within the transmembrane domain, alphaTyr-213 within alphaM1 and deltaTyr-228 within deltaM1 were photolabeled, while no labeled amino acids were identified within the deltaM2 ion channel domain. Although the efficiency of photolabeling at the subunit level was unaffected by agonist, competitive antagonist, or isoflurane, state-dependent photolabeling was seen in a delta subunit fragment beginning at deltaPhe-206. Labeling of deltaTyr-212 in the extracellular domain was inhibited >90% by d-tubocurarine, whereas addition of either carbamylcholine or isoflurane had no effect. Within M1, the level of photolabeling of deltaTyr-228 with [(14)C]halothane was increased by carbamylcholine (90%) or d-tubocurarine (50%), but it was inhibited by isoflurane (40%). Within the structure of the nAChR transmembrane domain, deltaTyr-228 projects into an extracellular, water accessible pocket formed by amino acids from the deltaM1-deltaM3 alpha-helices. Halothane photolabeling of deltaTyr-228 provides initial evidence that halothane and isoflurane bind within this pocket with occupancy or access increased in the nAChR desensitized state compared to the closed channel state. Halothane binding at this site may contribute to the functional inhibition of nAChRs.