Mitragynine is an indole alkaloid isolated from the Thai medicinal plant Mitragyna speciosa that is reported to have opioid agonistic properties. The 9-demethyl analogue of mitragynine, 9-hydroxycorynantheidine, is synthesized from mitragynine. 9-Hydroxycorynantheidine inhibited electrically stimulated guinea-pig ileum contraction, but its maximum inhibition was weaker than that of mitragynine and its effect was antagonized by naloxone, suggesting that 9-hydroxycorynantheidine possesses partial agonist properties on opioid receptors. Receptor binding assays revealed that 9-hydroxycorynantheidine has high affinity for mu-opioid receptors. In an assay of the guinea-pig ileum, naloxone shifted the concentration-response curves for [D-Ala(2), N-MePhe(4), Gly-ol(5)]-enkephalin (DAMGO), (5alpha,7alpha,8beta)-(+)-N-Methyl-N-[7-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-1-oxaspiro[4.5]dec-8-yl]-benzeneacetamide (U69593) and 9-hydroxycorynantheidine to the right in a competitive manner. The pA(2) values of naloxone against 9-hydroxycorynantheidine and DAMGO were very similar, but not that against U69593. As indicated by the two assay systems, the opioid effect of 9-hydroxycorynantheidine is selective for the mu-opioid receptor. 9-Hydroxycorynantheidine shifted the concentration-response curve for DAMGO slightly to the right. Pretreatment with the mu-opioid selective and irreversible antagonist beta-funaltorexamine hydrochloride (beta-FNA) shifted the concentration-response curve for DAMGO to the right without affecting the maximum response. On the other hand, beta-FNA did not affect the curve for 9-hydroxycorynantheidine, but decreased the maximum response because of the lack of spare receptors. These studies suggest that 9-hydroxycorynantheidine has partial agonist properties on mu-opioid receptors in the guinea-pig ileum.