In addition to having desirable inhibitory effects on inflammation, anaphylaxis, and smooth muscle contraction, PDE-IV inhibitors also produce undesirable side effects including nausea and vomiting. In general, compounds that inhibit PDE-IV also potently displace [3H]rolipram from a high-affinity binding site in rat cortex. While this binding site has not been identified, it has been proposed to be an allosteric binding site on the PDE-IV enzyme. Preliminary studies have suggested that the emetic potency of PDE-IV inhibitors is correlated with affinity for the brain rolipram binding site rather than potency at inhibiting PDE-IV enzyme activity. Efforts to eliminate the emetic potential of PDE-IV inhibitors were directed toward developing compounds with decreased [3H]rolipram binding affinity while retaining PDE-IV potency. Thus, a novel series of 4-(3-alkoxy-4-methoxyphenyl)benzoic acids and their corresponding carboxamides were prepared and evaluated for their PDE-IV inhibitory and rolipram binding site properties. Modification of the catechol ether moiety led to phenylbutoxy and phenylpentoxy analogues that provided the desired activity profile. Specifically, 4-[3-(5-phenylpentoxy)-4-methoxyphenyl]-2-methylbenzoic acid, 18, was found to exhibit potent PDE-IV inhibitory activity (IC50 0.41 microM) and possessed 400 times weaker activity than rolipram for the [3H]rolipram binding site. In vivo, compound 18 was efficacious in the guinea pig aerosolized antigen induced airway obstruction assay (ED50 8.8 mg/kg, po) and demonstrated a significant reduction in emetic side effects (ferret, 20% emesis at 30 mg/kg, po).