The intrathecal (i.t.) injection of 3.0 fmol nociceptin (orphanin FQ) elicited scratching, biting and licking responses in mice. N-terminal fragments of nociceptin, nociceptin (1-7), nociceptin (1-9) and nociceptin (1-13), induced no characteristic behavioral response. When these N-terminal fragments of nociceptin were injected simultaneously with nociceptin, the behavioral response induced by nociceptin was reduced dose-dependently. Nociceptin (1-13) was much more potent than nociceptin (1-7) and nociceptin (1-9) and antagonized nociceptin-induced response at equimolar doses. No significant effects of the N-terminal fragments were observed against the scratching, biting and licking response elicited by i.t. administration of substance P or N-methyl-D-aspartate. These results suggest that N-terminal fragments formed endogenously in the spinal cord may have an antagonistic effect on nociceptin-induced behavioral responses.