The brain cholecystokinin-B/gastrin receptor (CCK-B/gastrin) has been implicated in mediating anxiety, panic attacks, satiety, and the perception of pain. The canine and human CCK-B/gastrin receptors share 90% amino-acid identity and have similar agonist affinities. These receptors can be selectively blocked by the non-peptide benzodiazepine-based antagonists L365260 (ref. 8) and L364718 (ref. 9); however, the binding of these antagonists to the human and canine receptors differs by up to 20-fold, resulting in a reversal of affinity rank order. Here we report the identification of a single amino acid in the sixth transmembrane domain of the CCK-B/gastrin receptor that corresponds to valine 319 in the human homologue and which is critical in determining the binding affinity for these non-peptide antagonists. We show that it is the variability in the aliphatic side chain of the amino acid in position 319 that confers antagonist specificity. Substitution of valine 319 with a leucine residue decreases the affinity for L365260 20-fold while concomitantly increasing the affinity for L364718. An isoleucine in the same position of the human receptor selectively increases affinity for L364718. Interspecies differences in the aliphatic amino acid occupying this single position selectively affect antagonist affinities without altering the agonist binding profile. We therefore conclude that the residues underlying non-peptide antagonist affinity must differ from those that confer agonist specificity. To our knowledge, these findings are the first example in which a critical antagonist binding determinant for a seven-transmembrane-domain peptide hormone receptor has been identified.