The influence of the nicotine antagonist dihydro-beta-erythroidine (DH beta E) was examined on various behavioural effects of nicotine in rats. Motor activity was recorded in photocell cages whereas discriminative stimulus effects were examined using two-lever drug discrimination procedures with a tandem schedule of food reinforcement (n = 8 throughout). DH beta E (0.1-3.2 mg/kg) failed to antagonise the decreases in motor activity that nicotine (0.4-0.6 mg/kg) produced in experimentally naive rats, whereas mecamylamine (1.5 mg/kg) completely blocked this effect of nicotine. DH beta E (0.1-3.2 mg/kg) antagonised the increases in motor activity that nicotine (0.4 mg/kg) produced in rats with extensive previous exposure to both nicotine and the photocell apparatus. In rats trained to discriminate either 0.1 or 0.4 mg/kg nicotine from saline, DH beta E (0.1-3.2 mg/kg) blocked the discriminative stimulus effect of nicotine. The block of the discriminative effect could be reversed by increasing the dose of nicotine; DH beta E (1.6 mg/kg) shifted the dose-response curve for nicotine discrimination to the right by a factor of 9.4. In addition, nicotine in doses of 0.32-0.64 mg/kg decreased the overall rate of lever pressing but DH beta E (1.6 mg/kg) did not influence the dose-response curve for this effect. Thus, DH beta E potently blocked the locomotor activating and discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine at doses that did not antagonise its locomotor depressant and operant response rate-reducing effects. This selective blockade supports the involvement of different subtypes of nicotinic receptor in the mediation of diverse behavioural effects. Furthermore, the rightward shift of the dose-response curve for nicotine discrimination suggested a competitive mode of action for DH beta E.