In order to establish the structural requirements for binding to the brain cannabinoid receptor (CB1), we have synthesized numerous fatty acid amides, ethanolamides, and some related simple derivatives and have determined their Ki values. A few alpha-methyl- or alpha, alpha-dimethylarachidonoylalkylamides were also examined. In the 20:4, n-6 series, the unsubstituted amide is inactive; N-monoalkylation, at least up to a branched pentyl group, leads to significant binding. N,N-Dialkylation, with or without hydroxylation on one of the alkyl groups, leads to elimination of activity. Hydroxylation of the N-monoalkyl group at the omega carbon atom retains activity. In the 20x, n-6 series, x has to be either 3 or 4; the presence of only two double bonds leads to inactivation. In the n-3 series, the limited data reported suggest that the derived ethanolamides are either inactive or less active than comparable compounds in the n-6 series. Alkylation or dialkylation of the alpha carbon adjacent to the carbonyl group retains the level of binding in the case of anandamide (compounds 48, 49); however, alpha-monomethylation or alpha,alpha-dimethylation of N-propyl derivatives (50-53) potentiates binding and leads to the most active compounds seen in the present work (Ki values of 6.9 +/- 0.7 to 8.4 +/- 1.1 nM). We have confirmed that the presence of a chiral center on the N-alkyl substituent may lead to enantiomers which differ in their levels of binding (compounds 54, 57 and 55, 56).