The purpose of this study was to explore the hypothesis that the dihydropyridine (DHP) binding site of the L-type calcium channel is a high affinity binding site for the cannabimimetic arachidonylethanolamide (AEA). Binding affinities were determined from competition isotherms using the DHP analog [3H]PN-200. AEA competed for [3H]PN-200 binding with a K(I) of 40 +/- 4 microM. Inclusion of phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride to inhibit an amidohydrolase that converts AEA to arachidonic acid had little effect on the K(I) of AEA (48 +/- 6 microM). Arachidonic acid had a slightly higher K(I) (120 +/- 11 microM) and other N-acylethanolamides examined (linolenylethanolamide, dihomo-gamma-linolenylethanolamide, docosatetraenylethanolamide, and palmitoylethanolamide) had no effect on [3H]PN-200 binding at concentrations as high as 10 microM. Our conclusions are that AEA binds to the DHP binding site with relatively low affinity and its conversion to arachidonic acid is not required for binding.