The use of anticholinergics in antiobstructive therapy is well established in pulmonary medicine. We sought to improve the duration of action of inhaled antimuscarinics. A newly developed compound, Ba 679 BR (abbreviated Ba 679) proved to be a highly potent muscarinic antagonist in guinea pig tracheal rings. Its binding to human receptors (Hm1, Hm2, Hm3) was characterized by KD-values in the 10(-10) M concentration range. Assessment of the dissociation rate of complexes of labelled Ba 679 and human muscarinic receptors revealed very slow dissociation in comparison to ipratropium. The half-lives in hours were: Ba 679-Hm3: 34.7, -Hm1: 14.6, -Hm2: 3.6; ipratropium-Hm3: 0.26, -Hm1: 0.11, -Hm2: 0.035. The duration of action in vivo was determined by means of acetylcholine-induced bronchospasms in dogs following inhalation of the drugs. Ba 679 demonstrated a significantly longer duration of protection than an equipotent dose of ipratropium. The plasma levels following inhalation in dogs declined rapidly and are unlikely to reflect the duration of the pharmacological activity. In summary, Ba 679 represents a novel type of antimuscarinic bronchodilator with a long duration of action, most likely due to its slow dissociation from Hm3-receptors. In addition, the drug showed "kinetic receptor subtype selectivity" by having a more rapid dissociation from Hm2 than from Hm1 and Hm3 receptors.