The objective of this study was to examine the antinociceptive effects of peripherally restricted kappa-opioid receptor agonists (ORAs) in a rat model of inflammatory bowel disease produced by intracolonic instillation of trinitrobenzine sulfonic acid (TNBS). Antinociceptive effects of mu-(morphine) and kappa-ORAs (EMD 61,753 and ICI 204,488) were evaluated in a behavioral model of visceral nociception. The effects of these agonists and a delta-ORA (SNC 80) on responses of pelvic nerve afferent fibers innervating the colon were also tested. In the behavioral study, systemic injections of morphine and both kappa-ORAs dose-dependently inhibited the visceromotor response to colorectal distension in rats with uninflamed or inflamed colons. The inhibitory effects of kappa-ORAs, but not morphine, were significantly greater in rats with colons inflamed 4 days previously by TNBS. A mu-receptor-selective dose (30 microg/kg) of naloxone methiodide (NLXM) blocked the inhibitory effect of morphine, but not of EMD 61,753. In the single-fiber study, neither morphine nor the delta-ORA SNC 80 attenuated the responses of pelvic nerve afferent fibers, whereas kappa-ORAs dose-dependently inhibited responses of pelvic nerve afferent fibers with significantly greater potency in the inflamed colon. Pretreatment with a non-opioid receptor-selective dose (2 mg/kg) of NLXM produced a rightward shift in the dose-response function of EMD 61,753. The greater potency of kappa-ORAs in the TNBS-inflamed condition suggests a peripheral upregulation of kappa-opioid receptors in colonic inflammation.