In the present study we compared the affinity of various drugs for the high affinity "agonist-preferring" binding site of human recombinant 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(2B) and 5-HT(2C) receptors stably expressed in monoclonal mammalian cell lines. To ensure that the "agonist-preferring" conformation of the receptor was preferentially labelled in competition binding experiments, saturation analysis was conducted using antagonist and agonist radiolabels at each receptor. Antagonist radiolabels ([3H]-ketanserin for 5-HT(2A) receptor and [3H]-mesulergine for 5-HT(2B) and 5-HT(2C) receptor) bound to a larger population of receptors in each preparation than the corresponding agonist radiolabel ([125I]-DOI for 5-HT(2A) receptor binding and [3H]-5-HT for 5-HT(2B) and 5-HT(2C) receptor binding). Competition experiments were subsequently conducted against appropriate concentrations of the agonist radiolabels bound to the "agonist-preferring" subset of receptors in each preparation. These studies confirmed that there are a number of highly selective antagonists available to investigate 5-HT2 receptor subtype function (for example, MDL 100907, RS-127445 and RS-102221 for 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(2B) and 5-HT(2C) receptors respectively). There remains, however, a lack of highly selective agonists. (-)DOI is potent and moderately selective for 5-HT(2A) receptors, BW723C86 has poor selectivity for human 5-HT(2B) receptors, while Org 37684 and VER-3323 display some selectivity for the 5-HT(2C) receptor. We report for the first time in a single study, the selectivity of numerous serotonergic drugs for 5-HT2 receptors from the same species, in mammalian cell lines and using, exclusively, agonist radiolabels. The results indicate the importance of defining the selectivity of pharmacological tools, which may have been over-estimated in the past, and highlights the need to find more selective agonists to investigate 5-HT2 receptor pharmacology.