This study was part of a broad search for endogenous regulators of L-type calcium channels. The screening for active fractions was done by measuring inhibition [3H]1,4-dihydropyridine (DHP) binding to rat cardiac and cortex membranes. An inhibitory fraction, termed lyophilized brain hexane-extractable inhibitor (LBHI), was isolated from hexane extracts of lyophilized calf brain. The active substance was purified by a series of chromatographic steps. 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), 1H coherence spectroscopy (COSY) NMR and fast atom bombardment (FAB) mass spectroscopy suggested that LBHI was N-arachidonic acid-2-hydroxyethylamide. Synthesis of this substance and subsequent high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and NMR analysis confirmed this structure. Synthetic LBHI (SLBHI) inhibited [3H]DHP binding to rat cortex membranes with an IC50 value of congruent to 15 microM and a Hill coefficient of congruent to 2. Saturation analysis in the presence of SLBHI showed a change in KD (equilibrium dissociation constant), but not maximal binding capacity (Bmax). SLBHI produced an increased dissociation rate, which, along with the Hill slope of > 1, suggested a non-competitive interaction with the DHP binding site. The results suggest that arachidonic acid derivatives may be endogenous modifiers of the DHP calcium antagonist binding site.