This study was directed at the issue of whether or not subpopulations of cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors exist within the CNS. This was achieved through the use of two radiolabelled probes, namely [125I] Bolton-Hunter (BH) CCK 8 and [3H]pentagastrin (Boc-beta-Ala CCK 4), in comparative studies under identical conditions. Both probes bound with high affinity to the mouse cerebral cortical CCK receptor binding site with apparent equilibrium dissociation constants (KD) of 1.9 nM and 1.4 nM for [3H]pentagastrin and [125I]BH CCK 8, respectively. The maximal binding capacity was 1.05 and 1.15 pmol/g weight for the tritium and iodinated probes, respectively. Hill analysis yielded Hill numbers close to unity, suggesting the absence of more than one binding site and the lack of cooperativity of CCK receptor binding. Kinetic studies revealed binding site homogeneity in that no evidence of multiphasic dissociation curves was seen. Computerised analysis of displacement binding data using LIGAND established that both radiolabelled probes bound to a single site, with the one-site model providing the best fit of the data. Similar rank orders of potency were obtained for various fragments of CCK 8 in competing for the CCK receptor, labelled with either probe. Both CCK 8 and CCK 4 bound with roughly equinanomolar affinity. These studies demonstrate that both CCK 8 and its shorter C-terminal fragment CCK 4 bind to a single class of high-affinity binding site, with as yet no evidence of CNS CCK receptor multiplicity.