Befloxatone, a novel oxazolidinone derivative, inhibited selectively and competitively monoamine oxidase (MAO)-A in human and rat brain, heart, liver and duodenum homogenates with Ki values ranging from 1.9 to 3.6 nM for MAO-A and from 270 to 900 nM for MAO-B. In vitro, befloxatone was more potent at inhibiting MAO-A activity than reference compounds (befloxatone > harmaline > brofaromine > BW 137OU87 > RS 8359 > toloxatone > moclobemide). The inhibition of MAO-A by befloxatone was time-dependent and fully reversible after dilution. After p.o. administration, befloxatone induced a dose-dependent and selective inhibition of rat brain and duodenum MAO-A activities ex vivo with ED50 values of 0.06 and 0.025 mg/kg, respectively. Befloxatone (0.5 mg/kg p.o.) decreased MAO-B activity by only 20% in both tissues. In the brain, liver and duodenum, the inhibition of MAO-A activity by befloxatone was short lasting. Twenty-four hours after administration of befloxatone (0.75 mg/kg p.o.), a full recovery of MAO-A activity was observed in the brain, but the enzyme activity was still decreased by 38 and 56% in the duodenum and liver, respectively. In the rat brain, befloxatone (0.75 mg/kg p.o.) increased levels of norepinephrine, dopamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine and decreased levels of their respective deaminated metabolites. These variations were dose-dependent and reversed 24 hr after administration. In addition, befloxatone (0.75 mg/kg p.o.) decreased free 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethylene glycol levels in the brain and plasma. Befloxatone (10 microM) did not modify the activities of diamine or benzylamine oxidase and did not interact with monoamine uptake mechanisms or with a variety of neurotransmitter or drug receptor sites. In conclusion, the neurochemical profile of befloxatone demonstrates that this compound is a selective, competitive, potent and reversible MAO-A inhibitor.