We examined the pharmacology of ZM253,270 and two representative examples of the pyrrolopyrimidines, a new class of nonpeptide, NK-2 receptor (NK-2R) antagonists. ZM253,270 competitively inhibited [3H]NKA binding to native or cloned NK-2R from hamster urinary bladder (Ki = 2 nM), but was a weaker (48-fold) inhibitor of [3H]NKA binding to cloned human NK-2R. A similar species selectivity was observed with less potent analogs of ZM253,270. The pyrrolopyrimidines demonstrated only marginal inhibition of [3H]SP binding to NK-1R in guinea pig lung membranes (Ki > 2 microM). In hamster trachea, ZM253,270 competitively antagonized the contractile response evoked by neurokinin A (NKA, -logKB = 7.5). In human bronchus, ZM253,270 was about 90-fold less potent as a competitive antagonist of NKA. The data from ligand binding assays in cloned receptors combined with functional receptor assays in airway smooth muscles, demonstrate that the nonpeptide antagonist ZM253,270 is selective for the NK2 receptor species that are prevalent in hamster, compared with those found in human tissues.