Experiments were conducted to determine the influence of the specific ORL1 receptor agonist, nociceptin, on the cough reflex in the cat. Cats were anesthetized and allowed to breathe spontaneously. Cough was elicited by mechanical stimulation of the intrathoracic airway. Intravenous administration of nociceptin (0.001-3.0 mg x kg(-1)) inhibited cough number and the magnitude of abdominal muscle electromyogram (EMG) discharge during cough in a dose-dependent manner. Nociceptin had no effect on the magnitude of the inspiratory muscle EMG during cough. These effects of nociceptin were antagonized by pretreatment with the ORL1 receptor antagonist, 1-[(3R,4R)-1-cyclooctylmethyl-3-hydroxymethyl-4-piperidyl]-3-ethyl-1, 3-dihydro-2H-benzimidazol-2-one (J-113397, 0.1 mg x kg(-1), i.v.). We conclude that intravenous nociceptin inhibits cough in the cat.