This study is an attempt to incorporate the butyrophenones, an important class of nontricyclic antipsychotic drugs, into a previously proposed pharmacophore model of tricyclic dopamine D2 receptor antagonist ligands. Conformational energy calculations were performed using the MM3-92 program on spiperone, as a representative butyrophenone, and milenperone and R48455, as related compounds with more limited conformational freedom. Twenty seven conformers were evaluated for spiperone with MM3-92 calculations and nine of these were within 1.1 kcal/mole of the global minima indicating the flexibility of the compound. A conformational analysis of twenty crystal structures of butyrophenones was also performed and six distinct conformers were represented. All of the energy minimized conformers of spiperone were superimposed in a least squares sense onto loxapine as a relatively rigid, typical D2 antagonist and a pair of mirror image conformers, which are observed in one crystal structure of spiperone, were found to be the best fit. However, it was not possible to discriminate between these two conformers since they fit the pharmacophore model equally well. The para-fluoro and carbonyl group of the butyrophenones were found to correspond best to the oxygen and chlorine atoms of loxapine, respectively. The conformations of milenperone and R48455 were also consistent with the two putative biologically active forms of spiperone and the pharmacophore model. Conformational energy calculations were also performed on molindone, an antipsychotic drug in clinical use, which can be related to the butyrophenones since both have a carbonyl group adjacent to an aromatic ring. A putative biologically active form was proposed for molindone and this was related to the structure of piquindone, a rigid analog of molindone. All of the compounds were found to be entirely consistent with the pharmacophore model. However, as previously found, there is great variability in the distance between the ammonium nitrogen and the center of the relevant aromatic ring with the most extreme case in the present study being R48455 where the distance is 7.2 A. The results of the present study should also be relevant to the structures of novel, atypical antipsychotic drugs such as risperidone which appear to be analogs of the butyrophenones.