SR141716A has been described as a cannabinoid receptor antagonist. This study was conducted to determine whether SR141716A was capable of antagonizing the pharmacological effects of the prototypical cannabinoid agonist delta 9-THC. The AD50 (+/- 95% confidence limits) obtained after a 10 min i.v. pretreatment with SR141716A in measures of hypoactivity, hypothermia, and antinociception were: 0.12 (0.02-0.66), 0.087 (0.037-0.201), and 0.16 (0.03-1.01) mg/kg, respectively. The effect of SR141716A lasted up to 1 hr (antinociception, 10 mg/kg), 4 hr (locomotion, 1 and 3 mg/kg), or 24 hr (hypothermia, 3 mg/kg). Further evaluation revealed an AD50 value of 2.7 mg/kg (1.7-4.4) in the PPQ-stretch procedure. Additionally, the ED50 (+/- S.E.) of morphine in the tail-flick antinociception procedure was increased by SR141716A (30 mg/kg, i.v.) from 3.2 (+/- 0.3) to 5.3 (+/- 0.6) mg/kg. Finally, SR141716A produced direct effects on locomotor activity at doses greater than 3 mg/kg. Locomotion was stimulated to more than 200% of control (20 mg/kg), with an ED50 value of 4.7 (+/- 1.5) mg/kg. The ED50 value represents stimulation to levels approximately 150% of control. It is not clear whether this pharmacological activity represents an uncharacterized action of SR141716A, or an index of tonic activity of an endogenous cannabinergic system. SR141716A will be useful in establishing the biochemical events responsible for the in vivo effects of exogenous cannabinoids, as well as in establishing the existence of a putative endogenous cannabinergic system.