Metabolism of orphanin FQ/nociceptin (OFQ/N) was studied in the spinal cord of rats. The heptadecapeptide was efficiently cleaved by a neutral serine endopeptidase, thus releasing the major metabolite, OFQ/N(1-11), further truncated to the final product, OFQ/N(1-6). Biologic activity of this latter fragment was tested in vivo, after intracerebroventricular and intrathecal injections. Hexapeptide exhibited a bi-phasic effect, causing antinociception up to 10 min after injection, followed by a hyperalgesia. The analgesic effect was blocked by naloxone and hyperalgesia was inhibited by NMDA--and NMDA/glycine site antagonists. The results indicate that shorter nociceptin fragments still possess their biologic activity though possibly acting via receptors other than ORL1.