The membrane dopamine transporter (DAT) has a pivotal role in the regulation of dopamine (DA) neurotransmission involved in a number of physiological functions and brain disorders. Molecular imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT), are relevant tools to explore the DAT, and we developed the cocaine derivative N-(3-iodopro-2E-enyl)-2beta-carbomethoxy-3beta-(4'-methylphenyl) nortropane (PE2I) that has proved to be a very potent radiopharmaceutical to image the DAT by these techniques. Several methods are available to obtain PE2I labeled with iodine-123 or -125, carbon-11 and tritium. The pharmacological properties of PE2I have demonstrated that it has good affinity for the DAT (4 nM) and is one of the most selective DAT ligands. [(125)I]PE2I characterized postmortem in human brains has revealed very intense and selective binding in the basal ganglia. Ex vivo autoradiography in rats has shown that high level of [(125)I]PE2I accumulates in the striatum and also in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area. [(125)I]PE2I accumulation in the rat striatum is rapid, high, and selective, providing a maximum striatum/cerebellum ratio of 10 during the first 30 min post injection. Using SPECT or PET, rapid, high, and selective accumulation of PE2I was found in the caudate nucleus and putamen in monkeys, whereas rapid wash out from the cerebellum was observed. In vivo investigations in healthy humans have demonstrated that PE2I has high striatal uptake, low nonspecific binding, low radiation exposure, and a fairly short scanning time. A number of findings in various animal models of Parkinson's disease in rats and monkeys have demonstrated the high efficacy of PE2I for detection of reduction in the density of DAT, thus showing the potential value of PE2I for early diagnosis and evaluation of treatment of this disease. The excellent properties of PE2I are basis for the development of new DAT tracers for use in future PET explorations using fluor-18.