The influence of chronic arthritic pain on two endogenous opioid peptides, dynorphin B and [Met5]enkephalin-Arg6-Phe7, and multiple opioid receptors in discrete brain, lumbar spinal cord and pituitary pools was investigated. Using radioimmunoassay and receptor binding assay, we examined the changes in regional opioid peptide levels and opioid receptor activity due to chronic inflammation in adjuvant arthritic rats. At 4 weeks post-inoculation, increased levels of immunoreactive dynorphin B and [Met5]enkephalin-Arg6-Phe7 were measured in tissues of arthritic rats compared with controls. No significant changes in mu-, delta- or kappa-opioid receptors were seen after chronic inflammation. Taken together, these results indicate that in chronic arthritis, opioid receptor changes do not follow the peptide alterations of pro-dynorphin and pro-enkephalin systems. Thus, dynamic modification and modulation of nociceptive information takes place during chronic inflammation. This supports the key role of the central nervous system in chronic inflammatory pain conditions.