Phencyclidine (PCP) is an antagonist of the NMDA subtype of glutamate receptor. PCP treatment induces psychosis in normal humans, which provides a valuable model of schizophrenia. PCP administration also models some of the symptoms of schizophrenia in experimental animals. NMDA hypofunction has been hypothesized to explain these schizophrenia-like symptoms. Acute or chronic administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist PCP has been shown to induce several short or long-term effects in both humans and experimental animals. In an attempt to clarify the neurochemical substrates of these effects in the present study, we used quantitative autoradiography to examine the effects of chronic (14 days) PCP treatment on NMDA receptor binding in mouse brain following both a short- (1 and 24 h) and long-term (14 days) delay after the last PCP treatment. NMDA receptors were targeted using [(3)H]MK801. Chronic PCP treatment increased [(3)H]MK801 binding consistently in the hippocampus in the short-term (p < 0.01). Conversely in the long-term, there were widespread reductions in NMDA receptor binding and this effect was most evident in the hippocampus where a 35% reduction of binding was found (p < 0.001). These results suggest that the hippocampus has a strong involvement in both the short and long-term effects of PCP treatment and that reduced NMDA receptor function might be one of the neurochemical substrates of the long lasting actions of PCP or PCP-induced psychosis. Importantly, this study shows that the long-term delay following chronic PCP treatment more accurately represents a state of NMDA hypofunction than the short-term PCP model.