The endogenous ligand for the orphan NOR receptor (earlier named ORL1) was recently discovered. This ligand, nociceptin/orphanin FQ is involved in a number of pharmacological actions in the CNS, including modulation of pain and cognition. However, its specific physiological role remains to be determined. Two major pathways of metabolism have been identified; the action of aminopeptidase(s) that prominently occurs in plasma, and endopeptidase activity that successively generates the N-terminal 1-13 and 1-9 fragments. Both pathways result in fragments that are inactive at the NOR receptor. However, short N-terminal fragments appear to be active in blocking the release of substance P from primary afferent C-fiber terminals in the dorsal spinal cord. The same endopeptidase(s) may also be involved in the fragmentation of dynorphin A since the inhibitor profile is similar. Enzyme activity is upregulated by morphine using either peptide as substrate that may lead to pharmacological interactions.