1. Orphanin FQ (OFQ), an endogenous peptide for ORL1 receptors, has been identified. Although the actions of OFQ have much in common with those of opioid peptides at the cellular level, behavioral studies in rodents seem conflicting. 2. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential pronociceptive or antinociceptive function of peripheral ORL1 receptors in primates. Experiments were conducted to verify whether local administration of OFQ can attenuate capsaicin-induced nociception and whether peripheral ORL1 receptors selectively mediate the local action of OFQ in monkeys. 3. Capsaicin (100 microg) was administered subcutaneously in the tail to locally evoke a nociceptive response (thermal allodynia/hyperalgesia), which was manifested as a reduced tail-withdrawal latency in normally innocuous 46 degreeC warm water. 4. Co-administration of OFQ (1--30 microg) with capsaicin in the tail dose-dependently inhibited thermal nociception. However, a locally effective dose of OFQ (30 microg), when applied in the back, did not inhibit capsaicin-induced nociception. 5. OFQ-induced local antinociception was antagonized by a small dose (10 microg) of J-113397, a selective ORL1 receptor antagonist, in the tail. Similarly, s.c. administration of 10 microg of J-113397 in the back did not antagonize local antinociception of OFQ. 6. In addition, s.c. administration of either OFQ or J-113397 in the tail alone did not change its thermal nociceptive threshold. Local administration of opioid receptor antagonists selective for mu, kappa, and delta opioid receptors did not antagonize OFQ-induced local antinociception. Local administration of J-113397 also did not interfere with the local actions of mu, kappa, and delta opioid agonists in the tail. 7. These results provide the first functional evidence that activation of peripheral ORL1 receptors produces thermal antinociception in primates and this action is independent of antinociception produced at classical opioid receptors.