The role of the delta opioid receptor in regulating anxiety-like behavior in male Sprague-Dawley rats was examined. Using an elevated plus maze, the effects of the selective delta opioid receptor antagonist naltrindole (1 or 5 mg kg(-1)) and agonist SNC80 (1, 5 or 20 mg kg(-1)) on anxiety-like behavior were measured. Anxiety was also measured following administration of diazepam (3 mg kg(-1)) and amphetamine (1 mg kg(-1)) and compared to the effects of SNC80. Locomotor activity following administration of naltrindole, SNC80, diazepam, and amphetamine was measured. Finally, the defensive burying paradigm was used to confirm the findings from the elevated plus maze. Results demonstrated that SNC80 produced dose-dependent anxiolytic effects similar to that of the classical antianxiety agent, diazepam. Administration of naltrindole caused anxiogenic behavior in rats further supporting the involvement of the delta opioid receptor system in regulating anxiety. Naltrindole also blocked the anxiolytic effects of SNC80. Amphetamine had no effect on anxiety-like behavior. SNC80 induced hyperactivity similar to amphetamine at the doses tested, while naltrindole and diazepam did not significantly affect locomotor activity. Although SNC80 can increase locomotor activity, control experiments reported herein indicate that hyperlocomotion is not sufficient to produce an anxiolytic response on the elevated plus maze. Together with the results from the defensive burying paradigm, this suggests that the effects of SNC80 on reducing anxiety are independent of its effects on locomotion. Collectively these data show that the delta opioid receptor system can regulate anxiety-like behavior in an anxiolytic (agonist) and anxiogenic (antagonist) manner.