The neurochemical profile of GBR 12909 (1-(2-bis(4-fluorphenyl)-methoxy)-ethyl)-4-(3-phenyl-propyl)pipera zine) was investigated. GBR 12909 was a potent and selective inhibitor of synaptosomal dopamine uptake (KI = 1 nM), with a 20-fold lower affinity for the histamine H1-receptor and a more than 100-fold affinity for the noradrenaline and 5-HT uptake carriers, the dopamine D-1, D-2, 5-HT2, 5-HT1A and alpha 1-receptors and voltage-dependent sodium channels. GBR 12909 (3 microM) was without effect on muscarinic, alpha 2, beta 1 + 2, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and benzodiazepine receptors, and on choline and GABA uptake carriers. The selective dopamine uptake inhibitory profile of GBR 12909 was confirmed by ex vivo uptake experiments. GBR 12909 inhibited uptake in vitro in a competitive manner as did cocaine and methylphenidate. [3H]GBR 12935 binding was competitively inhibited by GBR 12909 as well as by dopamine, cocaine and methylphenidate. Off-rate analysis of the [3H]GBR 12935 binding excluded the presence of allosteric binding sites on the dopamine carrier complex. Instead, the data favored the notion that GBR 12909 inhibits dopamine uptake by binding to the dopamine binding site on the carrier protein itself, thereby blocking the carrier process. In conclusion, GBR 12909 is a highly selective inhibitor of dopamine uptake, both in vivo and in vitro. At the moment GBR 12909 is the only compound with this neurochemical profile. The selective effect of GBR 12909 on this neuronal system makes it an interesting experimental tool and a potential antidepressant agent.