1. Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) is the endogenous peptide ligand for a specific G-protein coupled receptor, the N/OFQ peptide receptor (NOP). The N/OFQ-NOP receptor system has been reported to play an important role in pain, anxiety and appetite regulation. In airways, N/OFQ was found to inhibit the release of tachykinins and the bronchoconstriction and cough provoked by capsaicin. 2. Here we evaluated the effects of NOP receptor activation in bronchoconstriction and airway microvascular leakage induced by intraesophageal (i.oe.) hydrochloric acid (HCl) instillation in rabbits. We also tested the effects of NOP receptor activation in SP-induced plasma extravasation and bronchoconstriction. 3. In anesthetized New Zealand rabbits bronchopulmonary function (total lung resistance (R(L)) and dynamic compliance (C(dyn))) and airway microvascular leakage (extravasation of Evans blue dye) were evaluated. 4. Infusion of i.oe. HCl (1 N) led to a significant increase in bronchoconstriction and plasma extravasation in the main bronchi and trachea of rabbits pretreated with propranolol, atropine and phosphoramidon. 5. Bronchoconstriction and airway microvascular leakage were inhibited by N/OFQ (3-30 microg kg(-1) i.v.) in a dose-dependent manner. The NOP receptor agonist [Arg14,Lys15]N/OFQ mimicked the inhibitory effect of N/OFQ, being 10-fold more potent, UFP-101, a peptide selective NOP receptor antagonist, blocked the inhibitory effects of both agonists. 6. Under the same experimental conditions, N/OFQ and [Arg14,Lys15]N/OFQ did not counteract the bronchoconstriction and airway microvascular leakage induced by substance P. 7. These results suggest that bronchoconstriction and airway plasma extravasation induced by i.oe. HCl instillation are inhibited by activation of prejunctional NOP receptors.