Salvinorin A is a pharmacologically active diterpene that occurs naturally in the Mexican mint Ska Maria Pastora (Salvia divinorum) and represents the first naturally occurring kappa-opioid receptor agonist. The chemical structure of salvinorin A is novel among the opioids, and thus defines a new structural class of kappa-opioid-receptor selective drugs. Few studies have examined the effects of salvinorin A in vivo, and fewer still have attempted to assess the agonist actions of this compound at mu-opioid, delta-opioid, and kappa-opioid receptors using selective antagonists. In the mouse, salvinorin A disrupted climbing behavior on an inverted screen task, indicating a rapid, but short-lived induction of sedation/motor incoordination. Similar effects were observed with the mu-agonist remifentanil and the synthetic kappa-agonist U69,593. When behaviorally equivalent doses of all three opioids were challenged with antagonists at doses selective for mu-opioid, delta-opioid, or kappa-opioid receptors, results suggested that the motoric effects of remifentanil were mediated by mu-receptors, whereas those of salvinorin A and U69,593 were mediated via kappa-receptors. Despite similar potencies and degrees of effectiveness, salvinorin A and U69,593 differed with regard to their susceptibility to antagonism by the kappa-antagonist nor-binaltorphamine. This later finding, coupled with the novel chemical structure of the compound, is consistent with recent findings that the diterpene salvinorin A may bind to the kappa-receptor in a manner that is qualitatively different from that of more traditional kappa-agonists such as the benzeneacetamide U69,593. Such pharmacological differences among these kappa-opioids raise the possibility that the development of other diterpene-based opioids may yield important therapeutic compounds.