We determined the ability of a new benzomorphan derivative [2R-[2 alpha, 3(R*),6 alpha]]-1,2,3,4,5,6-hexahydro-3-(2-methoxypropyl)- 6,11,11-trimethyl-2,6-methano-3-benzazocin-9-ol hydrochloride (BIII 277 CL) to inhibit the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor-channel complex in vitro and in vivo. BIII 277 CL potently displaced [3H]MK-801 binding from the NMDA receptor-channel complex in synaptosomal membrane preparations from rat brain cortex (Ki = 4.49 nmol/l). It was much less effective at displacing [3H]dihydromorphine, [3H]naloxone and [3H]ditolyguanidine binding in similar membrane preparations: the Ki values were 3323, 8031 and 1017 nmol/l, respectively. BIII 277 CL did not exhibit any marked affinities for a variety of other central neurotransmitter receptors. BIII 277 CL antagonized NMDA-induced [3H]noradrenaline release (EC50 = 1.7 mumol/l) and NMDA-induced inhibition of protein synthesis in rat hippocampal slices (EC50 = 3.0 mumol/l). In mice, BIII 277 CL prevented NMDA-induced lethality (ID50 = 0.54 mg/kg s.c.) and, as expected, also caused disturbances in motor coordination in the same dose range (ED50 = 0.47 mg/kg s.c.). The duration of BIII 277 CL was much shorter than than of (+)MK-801 in both tests. Finally, BIII 277 CL (0.3 mg/kg s.c. 5 times over 24 h) reduced the cortical infarct area in mice that had been subjected previously to focal cerebral ischemia by unilateral occlusion of the middle cerebral artery. In summary, these results indicate that BIII 277 CL is a potent and specific ion-channel blocker of the NMDA receptor-channel complex which could be used for the treatment of acute thromboembolic stroke in humans.