The discriminative stimulus effects of two competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists, 2-amino-7-phosphonoheptanoate (APH) and 3-[(+-)-2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl]propyl-1-phosphonate (CPP), were assessed in rats trained to discriminate phencyclidine from saline. Systemically administered APH (10-60 mg/kg i.p.) failed to elicit phencyclidine-lever responding; however, partial generalization from phencyclidine occurred following intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administration of APH (1.5-30 micrograms). Systemic and central administration of CPP (3-30 mg/kg i.p.; 0.1-10 micrograms i.c.v.) also resulted in partial generalization from phencyclidine. Partial generalization was also obtained with methohexital (5-30 mg/kg i.p.). However, generalization to APH, CPP and methohexital was usually accompanied by decreased response rates, and response rate decreases frequently occurred without appreciable phencyclidine-lever selection, indicating that these drugs also had no phencyclidine-like behavioral effects. The drug di-ortho-tolyl guanidine (DTG) which binds with high-affinity to sigma receptors failed to elicit phencyclidine-lever responding, even at doses which reduced response rates. These findings suggest that although competitive NMDA antagonists share some discriminative stimulus properties with phencyclidine, there is not a complete overlap in the discriminative stimulus properties of competitive and non-competitive NMDA antagonists. Furthermore, the discriminative stimulus effects of APH and CPP were no more similar to phencyclidine than those of methohexital.