In the capsaicin test, intrathecal (i.t.) dynorphins are antinociceptive. Cysteine protease inhibitors such as p-hydroxymercuribenzoate (PHMB) given i.t. augment and prolong their activity. The effect of two novel cysteine protease inhibitors, N-peptidyl-O-acyl hydroxylamines, on the antinociception induced by i.t. administered dynorphin A or dynorphin B has been investigated. When administered i.t. 5 min before the injection of capsaicin (800 ng) into the plantar surface of the hindpaw, dynorphin A (62.5-1000 pmol) or dynorphin B (0.5-4 nmol) produced a dose-dependent and significant antinociceptive effect. The effect of dynorphin A (1 nmol) and dynorphin B (4 nmol) disappeared completely within 180 and 60 min, respectively. PHMB (2 nmol) and Boc-Tyr-Gly-NHO-Bz (BYG-Bz) (2 nmol) co-administered with dynorphin A or dynorphin B significantly prolonged antinociception induced by both. On the other hand, Z-Phe-Phe-NHO-Bz (ZFF-Bz) (1 and 2 nmol) only prolonged antinociception induced by dynorphin A. The results suggest that Z-Phe-Phe-NHO-Bz is an inhibitor of cysteine proteases preferring cleavage of dynorphin A, with less specificity towards dynorphin B in the mouse spinal cord.