Increasing evidence indicates that dopamine (DA) transporter density declines in Parkinson's disease (PD). 2Beta-carbomethoxy-3beta-(4-fluorophenyl)-n-(1-iodoprop-1-en -3-yl) nortropane (IACFT, Altropane) is a cocaine analog with high affinity and selectivity for dopamine transporter (DAT) sites in the striatum. In this study, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with [123I]altropane was used to measure DAT density in seven healthy volunteers (five males, age 37-75, and two females, ages 26 and 39) and eight male patients with Parkinson's disease (age 14-79, Hoehn and Yahr stage: 1.5-3 (n = 5) and 4-5 (n = 3)). Dynamic SPECT images and arterial blood samples were acquired over 1.5-2 hr and plasma radioactivity was analyzed chromatographically to obtain metabolite corrected arterial input functions. Binding potential (BP, B'max/KD) for striatal (Str) DAT sites was calculated by two methods using occipital cortex (Occ) as a reference. In the first method, tissue time-activity curves (TAC) and metabolite corrected arterial input functions were analyzed by a linear graphical method developed for reversible receptor ligands. In the second method, the expression (Str(TAC) - Occ(TAC)) was fitted to a gamma variate function and the maximum divided by Occ(TAC) at the same time was used to estimate BP. In five of the PD patients, the SPECT data were compared with the results of PET with [18F] 6-fluoro DOPA (FD-PET). Plasma analysis indicated that [123I]altropane is rapidly converted to polar metabolites. SPECT images in healthy volunteers showed that [123I] altropane accumulated rapidly and selectively in the striatum and yielded excellent quality images within 1 h after injection. Both methods of analysis revealed a 7.6%/decade reduction in BP and average striatal values (corrected to age 25) were 1.83 +/- 0.22 and 2.09 +/- 0.20 by methods 1 and 2. In all the PD patients, striatal accumulation was markedly reduced and the pattern of loss was similar to that reported for DA; most profound in the posterior putamen with relative sparing of the caudate nuclei. A comparable pattern was observed with FD-PET. For total striatum, age-corrected BP was significantly (P < 0.001) reduced; 0.83 +/- 0.06 (method 1), 0.84 +/- 0.07 (method 2). BPs measured by the two methods were remarkably similar and highly correlated r2 = 0.88, (P < 0.001). These results indicate that [123I]altropane is an excellent SPECT ligand for imaging the DAT/DA neurons in human brain. The high selectivity and rapid striatal accumulation of the ligand allows for accurate quantitation of DAT sites in less than 2 hr. The results further demonstrate that [123I]altropane is an effective marker for PD.