We have previously reported that intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of either a PKC or PKA inhibitor completely reversed the expression of 5- to 8-fold morphine antinociceptive tolerance. We developed a model of 45-fold morphine tolerance that included a 75-mg morphine pellet and twice daily morphine injections. PKC inhibitor doses of bisindolylmaleimide I and Gö-7874 that completely reversed 8-fold tolerance only partly reversed the 45-fold level of antinociceptive tolerance. A component of tolerance was resistant to PKC inhibition, since even higher inhibitor doses failed to further reverse the high level of morphine tolerance. In addition, the 45-fold tolerance was only partly reversed by the PKA inhibitor KT-5720 at a dose previously cited by others to reverse 5-fold tolerance. Another PKA inhibitor 4-cyano-3-methylisoquinoline only partly reversed the morphine tolerance as well. In other experiments PKC and PKA inhibitors were co-administered together to determine their effectiveness for completely reversing the 45-fold level of morphine tolerance. Co-administering either bisindolylmaleimide I with KT-5720, or Gö-7874 with KT-5720, completely reversed the high level of tolerance. The high level of morphine tolerance was also completely reversed by co-administering Gö-7874 with 4-cyano-3-methylisoquinoline. Thus, high levels of morphine tolerance may reflect increases in protein phosphorylation by the terminal kinases of both the adenylyl cyclase and phosphatidylinositol cascades in brain and spinal cord areas critical to the expression of antinociception.