The present study was designed to investigate the effect of repeated administration of a selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist (1S-trans)-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)cyclohexyl]-benzeneacetamide hydrochloride [(-)U-50,488H] on antinociception and G-protein activation induced by mu-opioid receptor agonists in mice. A single s.c. injection of (-)U-50,488H produced a dose-dependent antinociception, and this effect was reversed by a selective kappa-opioid receptor antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI). Furthermore, a single s.c. pre-treatment with (-)U-50,488H had no effect on the mu-opioid receptor agonist-induced antinociception. In contrast, repeated s.c. administration of (-)U-50,488H resulted in the development of tolerance to (-)U-50,488H-induced antinociception. Under these conditions, we demonstrated here that repeated s.c. injection of (-)U-50,488H significantly enhanced the antinociceptive effect of selective mu-opioid receptor agonists endomorphin-1, endomorphin-2 and [d-Ala2,N-MePhe4,Gly-ol5] enkephalin (DAMGO). Using the guanosine-5'-o-(3-[35S]thio) triphosphate ([35S]GTP gamma S) binding assay, we found that (-)U-50,488H was able to produce a nor-BNI-reversible increase in [35S]GTP gamma S binding to membranes of the mouse thalamus, which has a high level of kappa-opioid receptors. Repeated administration of (-)U-50,488H caused a significant reduction in the (-)U-50,488H-stimulated [35S]GTP gamma S binding in this region, whereas chronic treatment with (-)U-50,488H exhibited the increase in the endomorphin-1-, endomorphin-2- and DAMGO-stimulated [35S]GTP gamma S bindings in membranes of the thalamus and periaqueductal gray. These results suggest that repeated stimulation of kappa-opioid receptors leads to the heterologous up-regulation of mu-opioid receptor functions in the thalamus and periaqueductal gray regions, which may be associated with the supersensitivity of mu-opioid receptor-mediated antinociception.