Stress-induced analgesia (SIA) is a key component of the defensive behavioral "fight-or-flight" response. Although the neural substrates of SIA are incompletely understood, previous studies have implicated the hypocretin/orexin (Hcrt) and nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) peptidergic systems in the regulation of SIA. Using immunohistochemistry in brain tissue from wild-type mice, we identified N/OFQ-containing fibers forming synaptic contacts with Hcrt neurons at both the light and electron microscopic levels. Patch clamp recordings in GFP-tagged mouse Hcrt neurons revealed that N/OFQ hyperpolarized, decreased input resistance, and blocked the firing of action potentials in Hcrt neurons. N/OFQ postsynaptic effects were consistent with opening of a G protein-regulated inwardly rectifying K+ (GIRK) channel. N/OFQ also modulated presynaptic release of GABA and glutamate onto Hcrt neurons in mouse hypothalamic slices. Orexin/ataxin-3 mice, in which the Hcrt neurons degenerate, did not exhibit SIA, although analgesia was induced by i.c.v. administration of Hcrt-1. N/OFQ blocked SIA in wild-type mice, while coadministration of Hcrt-1 overcame N/OFQ inhibition of SIA. These results establish what is, to our knowledge, a novel interaction between the N/OFQ and Hcrt systems in which the corticotropin-releasing factor and N/OFQ systems coordinately modulate the Hcrt neurons to regulate SIA.