(2.4)-Dimethoxybenzylidene anabaseine dihydrochloride (GTS-21), a compound that interacts with rat neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), was evaluated using human recombinant nAChRs in vitro and various pharmacokinetic and behavioral models in rodents, dogs and monkeys. GTS-21 bound to human alpha 4 beta 2 nAChR (K1-20 nM) 100-fold more potently than to human alpha 7 nAChR, and was 18- and 2-fold less potent than (-)-nicotine at human alpha 4 beta 2 and alpha 7 nAChR, respectively. Functionally. GTS-21 stimulated [5H]dopamine release from rat striatal slices with an EC50 of 10 +/- 2 microM (250-fold less potent and 70% as efficacious as (-)-nicotine), an effect blocked by the nAChR antagonist dihydro-beta-erythroidine. However, GTS-21 did not stimulate human alpha 4 beta 2 nor human ganglionic nAChRs significantly. In vivo, GTS-21 had no adverse effect on dog blood pressure (< or = 2.5 micromol/kg i.v. bolus infusion), in marked contrast with (-)-nicotine, GTS-21 (-62 micromol/kg.s.e.) also did not cross-discriminate significantly with (-)-nicotine in rats and did not reduce temperature or locomotion in mice. Neither was it active in the elevated plus maze anxiety model (0.19-6.2 micromol/kg.IP) in normal mice. However, GTS-21 did improve learning performance of monkeys in the delayed matching-to-sample task (32-130 nmol/kg.i.m.).