The present study investigated the effects of micro-, delta- and kappa-opioid receptor agonists on seizures produced by blockade of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated synaptic transmission in the mouse. The selective GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline (1.25-3 mg/kg) given subcutaneously caused dose-dependent clonic-tonic convulsions. These convulsions were potentiated by the prototypic mu-opioid receptor agonist morphine given subcutaneously 20 min prior to a subconvulsive dose of bicuculline. The potentiation by morphine was completely reversed by pretreatment intraventricularly with the selective mu-opioid receptor antagonist beta-funaltrexamine (0.5 microgram/mouse). Pretreatment intraventricularly with the selective delta-opioid receptor agonists 2-methyl-4aalpha-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-1,2,3,4,4a,5,12, 12abeta-octahydro-quinolino[2,3,3-g]isoquinoline ((-)TAN-67) or [D-Pen(2,5)]-enkephalin (DPDPE) showed a dose-dependent increase in the incidence of convulsions. Pretreatment with naltrindole (2 mg/kg, s.c.), a selective delta-opioid receptor antagonist, abolished the enhancement of the bicuculline-induced convulsions by DPDPE. In contrast, pretreatment with the selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist U-50,488H (0.6-80 mg/kg, subcutaneously or 25-100 microgram/mouse, intraventricularly) produced a dose-dependent suppression of the bicuculline-induced convulsions. The inhibitory effect of U-50,488H was completely blocked by pretreatment subcutaneously with nor-binaltorphimine (5 mg/kg), a selective kappa-opioid receptor antagonist. This study demonstrates that activation of both mu- and delta-opioid receptors increases the incidence of convulsions produced by blockade of GABA-mediated synaptic transmission, while stimulation of kappa-opioid receptors has an anticonvulsive effect.