The periaqueductal grey (PAG) area is involved in pain modulation as well as in opiate-induced anti-nociceptive effects. The PAG possess dopamine neurons, and it is likely that this dopaminergic network participates in anti-nociception. The objective was to further study the morphology of the PAG dopaminergic network, along with its role in nociception and opiate-induced analgesia in rats, following either dopamine depletion with the toxin 6-hydroxydopamine or local injection of dopaminergic antagonists. Nociceptive responses were studied through the tail-immersion (spinal reflex) and the hot-plate tests (integrated supraspinal response), establishing a cut-off time to further minimize animal suffering. Heroin and morphine were employed as opiates. Histological data indicated that the dopaminergic network of the PAG is composed of two types of neurons: small rounded cells, and large multipolar neurons. Following dopamine depletion of the PAG, large neurons (not small ones) were selectively affected by the toxin (61.9% dopamine cell loss, 80.7% reduction of in vitro dopaminergic peak), and opiate-induced analgesia in the hot-plate test (not the tail-immersion test) was reliably attenuated in lesioned rats (P < 0.01). After infusions of dopaminergic ligands into the PAG, D(1) (not D(2)) receptor antagonism attenuated opiate-induced analgesia in a dose-dependent manner in the hot-plate test. The present study provides evidence that large neurons of the dopaminergic network of the PAG participate in supraspinal (not spinal) nociceptive responses after opiates through the involvement of D(1) dopamine receptors. This dopaminergic system should be included as another network within the PAG involved in opiate-induced anti-nociception.