An in vitro binding assay, using 125I-YLFQPQRFamide, a newly synthetized iodinated analog of FLFQPQRFamide, in which Phe1 (F) has been substituted by a Tyr (Y), was developed to demonstrate and characterize putative binding sites of this brain morphine modulating peptide. This radioligand bound in a time-dependent manner to rat spinal cord membrane preparation. This binding was dose-dependent, saturable and reversible. Both kinetic data and saturation measured at equilibrium lead to the existence of a homogenous population of high affinity binding sites with a Kd value of 0.09-0.1 nM and a maximal capacity Bmax of 14.5 +/- 2 fmol/mg protein. Results of competition experiments show that both FLFQPQRFamide and its analog YLFQPQRFamide had a similar capacity to inhibit the 125I-YLFQPQRFamide binding, suggesting that this radioiodinated analog is a good tool to study binding characteristics of FLFQPQRFamide receptors. The related octadecapeptide AGEGLSSPFWSLAAPQRFamide, another mammalian morphine modulating peptide competes for radioligand binding with similar potency. Our results also show that mu, delta and kappa opiate receptor agonists as well as the antagonist naloxone were not able to affect binding either in presence or in absence of 120 mM NaCl. Together, these data demonstrate that FLFQPQRFamide does not function as an endogenous opiate receptor antagonist and that is capacity to reduce opiate-induced analgesia is supported by specific binding sites.