Alpidem is a new anxiolytic of imidazopyridine structure which has a high affinity for the omega 1 (BZ1) modulatory site of the GABAA receptor. The present study investigated whether tolerance and physical dependence develop after repeated treatment with alpidem, as is observed with benzodiazepines. Mice were given alpidem (100 mg/kg, p.o.) or diazepam (5 mg/kg, p.o.) twice daily for 10 consecutive days. Tolerance was assessed by measuring antagonism of pentylenetetrazole- and isoniazid-induced convulsions and bicuculline-provoked mortality, following repeated drug treatment. Decreases in the latency to isoniazid-induced convulsions and in the minimal convulsant dose of pentylenetetrazole were taken as an index of physical dependence and were evaluated at different times (3, 6, 14, 42, 67, 96 hr) after drug withdrawal or after flumazenil administration. In addition, changes in sensitivity to the convulsant effect of a beta-carboline (beta-CCM) were measured. Repeated treatment with diazepam produced tolerance to its anticonvulsant activities as indicated by shifts of the dose-response curves by a factor of 3-5. After discontinuation of diazepam treatment, spontaneous withdrawal occurred within 24 hr and lasted 67 hr as indicated by decreases in the threshold for convulsions induced by isoniazid and pentylenetetrazole. Flumazenil-induced withdrawal was observed in both isoniazid and pentylenetetrazole-induced convulsion models. Hypersensitivity of mice to the convulsant effect of beta-CCM also occurred. In contrast, repeated treatment with alpidem did not produce tolerance to its anticonvulsant effects and neither spontaneous nor flumazenil-induced withdrawal was observed in the pentylenetetrazole and isoniazid models. Moreover, withdrawal of alpidem did not induce any change in the convulsant activity of beta-CCM. These differences between alpidem and diazepam may be related to the low level of receptor occupancy during repeated treatment with alpidem because of its selectivity for omega 1 (BZ1) sites and to its moderate intrinsic activity.