We have investigated the possible occurrence of distinct CCK8 and CCK4 binding sites in the brain by comparing the binding characteristics of [3H] CCK4 to those of the CCK8 analogue, [3H] Boc (Nle28,31]CCK27-33 (BDNL-CCK7). [3H] CCK4 and [3H] BNDL-CCK7 were shown to interact with mouse brain membranes with very similar maximal binding capacities 31.7 +/- 2.1 fmol/mg prot (KD = 3.78 +/- 0.47 nM) and 38.9 +/- 2.2 fmol/mg prot (KD = 0.26 +/- 0.02 nM) respectively. The apparent affinities of five CCK analogues for the sites labelled by both probes were almost identical. Autoradiographic studies revealed that the distribution of [3H] CCK4 binding sites in rat forebrain was the same as that of [3H] BDNL-CCK7, with high densities of receptors in the cortex, nucleus accumbens, olfactory bulb and the medial striatum, moderate densities in the amygdala, the hippocampus, several nuclei of the thalamus and hypothalamus. However in the interpenduncular nucleus where there was moderate binding of [3H]BDNL-CCK7, no [3H]CCK4 labelling was observed. These studies demonstrated the occurrence of one class of high affinity binding sites for [3H] CCK4 in mouse and rat brain, with characteristics similar to those already reported with CCK33, CCK8 and pentagastrin probes. Nevertheless the presence of a small amount of very high affinity binding sites for [3H]CCK4 cannot be excluded.