The native opioid growth factor (OGF), [Met5]-enkephalin, is a tonic inhibitory peptide that modulates cell proliferation and migration, as well as tissue organization, during development, cancer, homeostatic cellular renewal, wound healing, and angiogenesis. OGF action is mediated by the OGF receptor (OGFr). To investigate the target of OGF as to cell proliferation, the effects of excess OGF, and a deprivation of OGF-OGFr interaction by an opioid antagonist, naltrexone (NTX), were examined in 3 human cancer cell lines: pancreatic (BxPC-3), colon (HT-29), and head and neck (CAL-27). OGF exposure decreased growth, DNA synthesis, and mitosis, and increased the doubling time from control levels. FACS analysis revealed a marked increase in cells in the G0/G1 phase and compensatory reduction in cells in S and G2/M phases. Consistent with this observation, the percentage of labeled mitosis (PLM) analysis showed a notable increase in the time of the G0/G1 phase. Receptor blockade with NTX increased the rate of growth, length of DNA synthesis and mitotic phases, and decreased doubling time from control values. FACS analysis indicated an increase in the proportion of cells in S and G2/M phases, and a decrease in the number of cells in the G0/G1 phase. PLM evaluation demonstrated a shortening of the length of the S and G2 phases in the 3 cell lines, and decreases in the M and G0/G1 phases in some cancers. These results indicate that OGF action is directed at the G0/G1 phase, but interruption of OGF-OGFr interfacing has widespread repercussions on the cell cycle. The data on blockade of OGF-OGFr during log phase growth suggest a requisite escorting of the growth peptide and its receptor through the cell cycle.