E2011, (5R)-3-[2-((1S)-3-cyano-1hydroxypropyl)benzothiazol- 6-yl]-5-methoxymethyl-2-oxazolidine, is a novel inhibitor of monoamine oxidase type A (MAO-A). We have characterized the neurochemical and pharmacological profiles of E2011 and compared them with those of known inhibitors of MAO-A. E2011 potently inhibited MAO-A with more than 30,000 times higher selectivity for MAO-A relative to MAO-B in rat brain homogenate. E2011 did not affect putative neural receptors or reuptake of biogenic amines into synaptosomes of rat brain, which suggests that it is specific to monoaminergic systems. In vivo, E2011 at a dose of 0.3 mg/kg p.o. exhibited potent MAO-A inhibitory activity, whereas MAO-B inhibition was not observed even at 100 mg/kg p.o. E2011 inhibited monoamine metabolism in the rat brain, but the effect disappeared 24 h after administration. Like other reversible MAO-A inhibitors, E2011 did not show a cumulative inhibitory effect during repeated administration for 7 days. However, inhibition of MAO-A by E2011 in ex vivo experiments appeared to be less potent than that by moclobemide. The MAO-A inhibition by E2011 was partially but significantly reversed by dialysis at 4 degrees C for 24 h, which indicates that E2011 could be dissociated from the enzyme. These findings suggest that E2011 is a reversible and highly selective inhibitor of MAO-A. The potency of inhibition by highly reversible MAO-A inhibitors such as E2011 is likely to be underestimated in ex vivo studies because of dilution of the homogenate in the assay system.