The effects of bromoacetylaminomenthylnorepinephrine (BAAN) on the sodium-dependent, high-affinity norepinephrine (NE) uptake system in rat brain synaptosomes and CNS neuronal cultures were investigated. BAAN inhibited [3H]NE uptake into synaptosomes in a dose- and time-dependent manner (IC50, 6.5 microM). Pretreatment of cortical synaptosomes or neuronal cells with BAAN alone, followed by washing to remove free drug, reduced the Vmax but did not alter the Km value for [3H]NE uptake. The BAAN-induced reduction in Vmax was attenuated by concurrent pretreatment with desipramine and blocked by the reaction of BAAN with dithiothreitol or cysteine. In contrast, BAAN was 19-fold less potent at inhibiting [3H]dopamine uptake in striatal synaptosomes, and no change in the Vmax or Km value for [3H]dopamine uptake was observed after a pretreatment with BAAN followed by washing. Furthermore, the irreversible beta-antagonist, bromoacetylalprenololmentane, was equipotent to BAAN for inhibiting [3H]NE uptake into cortical synaptosomes, but did not alter the Vmax or Km for [3H]NE after pretreatment. In neuronal cultures, BAAN inhibited sodium-dependent uptake of [3H]NE (IC50, 5.6 microM) with no effect on sodium-independent uptake. After pretreatment of cultures with 30 microM BAAN followed by washing, there was a 74% decrease in the Vmax for [3H]NE uptake. Following a 24-h lag period, uptake recovered to the control level within 48 h; however, recovery was completely blocked by cycloheximide. The data indicate that BAAN irreversibly binds to the [3H]NE uptake system in both CNS synaptosomes and neuronal cultures and may be a useful probe for studying the turnover of the [3H]NE uptake system.