Receptor binding studies were performed to characterize the properties of subtypes of kappa opioid receptors in membrane preparations of human cerebral cortex. [3H]U69,593 ([3H]U69), a selective kappa 1-agonist, and [3H]diprenorphine ([3H]DIP), a non-selective opioid antagonist, in the presence of 1 microM each of DAMGO, DPDPE and U-69 to block mu-, delta-, and kappa 1-sites, labeled single population of binding sites, respectively. [3H]U-69 binding sites (KD = 3.8 +/- 0.2 nM, Bmax = 6.3 +/- 0.2 fmol/mg protein) had a binding profile that correspond to kappa 1-receptor. That is, dynorphin A (1-13) (Dyn A), bremazocine (BZC), U50,488H (U50), (-)ethylketocyclazocine (EKC) and nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI) bound to this site with high affinities. [3H]DIP labeled binding sites (Kd = 7.3 +/- 0.2 nM, Bmax = 102 +/- 9 fmol/mg protein) that were not sensitive to U-50, but to BZC, EKC and nor-BNI. These results indicate that kappa 1 and Kappa 2 opioid receptors exist in human cerebral cortex with different ligand binding profiles.