Four diarylguanidine derivatives were synthesized. These compounds were found to displace, at submicromolar concentrations, 3H-labeled 1-[1-(2-thienyl)cyclohexyl]piperidine and (+)-[3H]MK-801 from phencyclidine receptors in brain membrane preparations. In electrophysiological experiments the diarylguanidines blocked N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-activated ion channels. These diarylguanidines also protected rat hippocampal neurons in vitro from glutamate-induced cell death. Our results show that some diarylguanidines are noncompetitive antagonists of NMDA receptor-mediated responses and have the neuroprotective property that is commonly associated with blockers of the NMDA receptor-gated cation channel. Diarylguanidines are structurally unrelated to known blockers of NMDA channels and, therefore, represent a new compound series for the development of neuroprotective agents with therapeutic value in patients suffering from stroke, from brain or spinal cord trauma, from hypoglycemia, and possibly from brain ischemia due to heart attack.