A series of tetrazole convulsants were examined for their potencies in displacing [35S]-t-butylbicyclophosphorothionate (TBPS) from the picrotoxin site on the benzodiazepine-GABA-chloride ionophore receptor complex. All of the tetrazole derivatives tested inhibited [35S]-TBPS binding from rat forebrain membranes, and except for one (undecamethylenetetrazole), had Hill coefficients near unity. Similar to other chemically unrelated convulsants the inhibition of [35S]-TBPS binding by the various tetrazole derivatives was unaffected by the addition of the bicucculine-like GABA antagonist, R 5135. To ascertain whether the inhibition of specific [35S]-TBPS binding by the tetrazole derivatives was related to their convulsant properties, we compared their in vitro potencies in displacing [35S]-TBPS binding with their minimum convulsant potencies in mice. A very good correlation was observed (r=0.96, p<0.001) between their relative affinities for the [35S]-TBPS binding site and their convulsant potencies, indicating that pentamethylenetetrazol and related tetrazoles may produced their convulsant and anxiogenic actions via the GABA-benzodiazepine-chloride ionophore receptor complex.