1. The present study describes the binding to rat striatal A2A adenosine receptors of the new potent and selective antagonist radioligand, [3H]-5-amino-7-(2-phenylethyl)-2-(2-furyl)-pyrazolo[4,3-e]-1,2,4-triazol o [1,5-c] pyrimidine, [3H]-SCH 58261. 2. [3H]-SCH 58261 specific binding to rat striatal membranes ( > 90%) was saturable, reversible and dependent upon protein concentration. Saturation experiments revealed that [3H]-SCH 58261 labelled a single class of recognition sites with high affinity (Kd = 0.70 nM) and limited capacity (apparent Bmax = 971 fmol mg-1 of protein). The presence of 100 microM GTP in the incubation mixture did not modify [3H]-SCH 58261 binding parameters. 3. Competition experiments showed that [3H]-SCH 58261 binding is consistent with the labelling of A2A striatal receptors. Adenosine receptor agonists competed with the binding of 0.2 nM [3H]-SCH 58261 with the following order of potency: 2-hexynyl-5'-N-ethyl carboxamidoadenosine (2HE-NECA) > 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA) > 2-[4-(2-carboxyethyl)-phenethylamino]-5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosi ne (CGS 21680) > 2-phenylaminoadenosine (CV 1808) > R-N6-phenylisopropyladenosine (R-PIA) > N6-cyclohexyladenosine (CHA) = 2-chloro-N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CCPA) > S-N6-phenylisopropyladenosine (S-PIA). 4. Adenosine antagonists inhibited [3H]-SCH 58261 binding with the following order: 5-amino-9-chloro-2-(2-furyl)-[1,2,4]-triazolo[1,5-c] quinazoline (CGS 15943) > 5-amino-8-(4-fluorobenzyl)-2-(2-furyl)-pyrazolo [4,3-e]-1,2,4-triazolo [1,5-c] pyrimidine (8FB-PTP) = SCH 58261 > xanthine amine congener (XAC) = (E,18%-Z,82%)7-methyl-8-(3,4-dimethoxystyryl)-1,3-dipropylxanthine (KF 17837S) > 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine (DPCPX) > or = 8-phenyltheophylline (8-PT). 5. The Ki values for adenosine antagonists were similar to those labelled with the A2A agonist [3H]-CGS 21680. Affinities of agonists were generally lower. The A1-selective agonist, R-PIA, was found to be about 9 fold more potent than its stereoisomer, S-PIA, thus showing the stereoselectivity of [3H]-SCH 58261 binding. Except for 8-PT, the adenosine agonists and antagonists examined inhibited [3H]-SCH 58261 binding with Hill coefficients not significantly different from unity. 6. The present results indicate that [3H]-SCH 58261 is the first non-xanthine adenosine antagonist radioligand which directly labels A2A striatal receptors. High receptor affinity, good selectivity and very low non-specific binding make [3H]-SCH 58261 an excellent probe for studying the A2A adenosine receptor subtype in mammalian brain.