The phosphodiesterase type IV (PDEIV) family of enzymes contributes to the metabolism of cAMP formed by the stimulation of beta-adrenergic, A2-adenosine, and H2-histamine receptors in the brain. Disturbances in cAMP-mediated signaling have been implicated in several neuropsychiatric disorders, and there is evidence that increasing cAMP levels through PDEIV inhibition improves the symptoms of these disorders. In the present study, the selective PDEIV inhibitors rolipram and Ro 20-1724, labeled with C-11, were evaluated in vivo in rats, as potential radioligands for imaging PDEIV enzymes with positron emission tomography (PET). Biodistribution experiments revealed a greater than threefold increased regional brain retention of [11C]rolipram as compared to [11C]Ro 20-1724. [nC]Rolipram uptake was higher in rat brain areas (e.g., cortical regions and olfactory system) showing higher expression of PDEIV enzymes, as determined previously using [3H]rolipram autoradiography or molecular genetic techniques. Binding of [n1C]rolipram and [11C]Ro 20-1724 was specific, since coadministration of high doses of unlabeled rolipram (10 mg/Kg, i.v.) or Ro 20-1724 (30 mg/Kg with [11C]rolipram and 10 mg/Kg with [11C]Ro 20-1724, i.v.) reduced radioactivity uptake in brain regions. Pretreatment with high doses of the PDEI selective inhibitor vinpocetine (10 mg/Kg, i.p., 15 min prior), or the noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor desipramine (10 mg/Kg, i.p., 30 min prior), or coinjection with the adenylyl cyclase activator forskolin (6.5 or 15 mg/Kg, i.v.), did not inhibit [11C]rolipram uptake in brain areas, suggesting binding selectivity for PDEIV enzymes. We conclude that [11C]rolipram, but not [11C]Ro 20-1724, is a promising radioligand for imaging the PDEIV enzymes with PET.