Opiates modulate pain perception at a number of different levels within the central nervous system and the importance of synergistic spinal and supraspinal influences have been well documented. In the present study we demonstrate synergistic interactions between the periaqueductal gray and locus coeruleus. Administered either systemically or intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.), ethylketocyclazocine elicits a potent naloxonazine-sensitive analgesia, indicating a mu 1 action. mu 1 Receptors also play a major role in opioid analgesic mechanisms in the periaqueductal gray and the locus coeruleus. However, microinjection of EKC into either the periaqueductal gray or locus coeruleus failed to elicit an analgesic response at any dose tested (0.1-20 micrograms) and, in additional studies, antagonized the analgesic actions of coadministered morphine or [D-Ser2,Leu5]enkephalin-Thr6 (DSLET). However, the simultaneous administration of EKC into both the periaqueductal gray (10 micrograms) and the locus coeruleus (10 micrograms; total combined dose 20 micrograms) produced a potent naloxonazine-sensitive analgesia greater than that observed with 50 micrograms i.c.v. These results suggest that EKC is a partial mu 1 agonist which lacks the efficacy to elicit analgesia when microinjected into either of the two brain regions alone. However, when exposed to several regions at once, either through simultaneous microinjections into the periaqueductal gray and locus coeruleus or by injection into the ventricle, EKC is a potent mu 1 analgesic. These results point out the existence of synergistic supraspinal interactions between the periaqueductal gray and the locus coeruleus, similar to the spinal/supraspinal interactions observed previously.