Steroid receptor antagonists are important biochemical probes for understanding the mode of steroid hormone action. We have studied the interaction between rat liver glucocorticoid receptor and a newly synthesized antisteroid ZK98299 (13-antigestagen; [11-beta-(4-dimethylaminophenyl)-17a-hydroxy-17 beta-(3- hydroxypropyl)-13 alpha-methyl-4,9-gonadien-3-one]). Glucocorticoid receptor from freshly prepared hepatic cytosol bound [3H]ZK98299 with affinity approximately equal to that of [3H]triamcinolone acetonide. The binding of both steroids reached a maximum at 4 h at 0 degrees C. Both ligands were able to compete for the steroid binding site but progesterone, estradiol and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) failed to compete for the [3H]ZK98299 and [3H]triamcinolone acetonide binding. While [3H]ZK98299 binding to glucocorticoid receptor could occur in the presence of iodoacetamide and N-ethylmaleimide (NEM), [3H]triamcinolone acetonide binding capacity was completely abolished following such treatments. The [3H]ZK98299-receptor complexes sedimented as 9 S and 4 S molecules under control (4 degrees C) and receptor transforming (23 degrees C) conditions, and exhibited a faster rate of dissociation at 23 degrees C when compared with [3H]triamcinolone acetonide-receptor complexes. These results indicate that ZK98299 interacts with hepatic glucocorticoid receptor. The differential effects of iodoacetamide and NEM on the interaction of glucocorticoid receptor with ZK98299 and triamcinolone acetonide, and the faster rate of dissociation of [3H]ZK98299-receptor complexes suggest that treatment with these agents (NEM and iodoacetamide) results in distinct conformational changes in glucocorticoid receptor structure with respect to triamcinolone acetonide and ZK98299 binding. Alternatively, ZK98299 may be interacting with a site which is distinct from one which accepts triamcinolone acetonide.