1. We have characterized the binding 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, to human cloned A2A adenosine receptors. 2. In Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transfected with the human cloned A2A receptor, [3H]-SCH 58261 specific binding (about 70%) was rapid, saturable, reversible and proportional to protein concentration. The kinetic KD value was 0.75 nM. Saturation experiments showed that [3H]-SCH 58261 labelled a single class of recognition sites with high affinity (KD = 2.3 nM) and limited capacity (apparent Bmax = 526 fmol mg-1 protein). 3. Competition experiments revealed that binding of 0.5 nM [3H]-SCH 58261 was displaced by adenosine receptor agonists with the following order of potency: 2-hexynyl-5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (2HE-NECA) > 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA) = 2-phenylaminoadenosine (CV 1808) > 2-[4-(2-carboxyethyl)-phenethylamino]-5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosi ne (CGS 21680) > R-N6-phenylisopropyladenosine (R-PIA) > or = N6-cyclohexyladenosine (CHA) > S-N6-phenylisopropyladenosine (S-PIA). 4. Adenosine receptor 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) > 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) > theophylline. 5. Affinity values and rank order of potency of both receptor agonists and antagonists were similar to those previously obtained in human platelet and rat striatal membranes, except for CV 1808 which was more potent than CGS 21680. SCH 58261 was a competitive antagonist at inhibiting NECA-induced adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cyclic AMP) accumulation in CHO cells transfected with human A2A receptors. Good agreement was found between binding and functional data. 6. Thus, the new antagonist radioligand is preferable to the receptor agonist radioligand [3H]-CGS 21680 hitherto used to examine the pharmacology of human cloned A2A adenosine receptors.