The properties of 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine (DPCPX) as an antagonist ligand for A1 adenosine receptors were examined and compared with other radioligands for this receptor. DPCPX competitively antagonized both the inhibition of adenylate cyclase activity via A1 adenosine receptors and the stimulation via A2 adenosine receptors. The Ki-values of this antagonism were 0.45 nM at the A1 receptor of rat fat cells, and 330 nM at the A2 receptor of human platelets, giving a more than 700-fold A1-selectivity. A similar A1-selectivity was determined in radioligand binding studies. Even at high concentrations, DPCPX did not significantly inhibit the soluble cAMP-phosphodiesterase activity of human platelets. [3H]DPCPX (105 Ci/mmol) bound in a saturable manner with high affinity to A1 receptors in membranes of bovine brain and heart, and rat brain and fat cells (KD-values 50-190 pM). Its nonspecific binding was about 1% of total at KD, except in bovine myocardial membranes (about 10%). Binding studies with bovine myocardial membranes allowed the analysis of both the high and low agonist affinity states of this receptor in a tissue with low receptor density. The binding properties of [3H]DPCPX appear superior to those of other agonist and antagonist radioligands for the A1 receptor.