The binding of radiolabelled ligands with high affinity for kappa-opioid binding sites has been studied in homogenates of lumbo-sacral spinal cord from the rat. The unselective ligands [3H]bremazocine and [3H]diprenorphine labelled a large number of sites which could not be fully resolved in terms of mu-, delta- and kappa-types by displacement assays. In particular binding at the kappa-site appeared anomalous in that sites which could be identified as high affinity kappa-type represented only 40% of total kappa-binding, defined using the unselective [3H]ligands. This was confirmed by the low levels of binding seen with the kappa-agonists [3H]dynorphin A(1-9) and [3H]U-69593. In guinea-pig cord, under conditions in which binding to mu- and delta-sites was suppressed, [3H]dynorphin A(1-9) and [3H]U-69593 labelled only 60% of the kappa population, defined by the [3H]unselective ligands. The reasons for the observed discrepancies are discussed.