Behavioral effects of a nonpeptidic NOP (nociceptin/orphanin FQ Peptide) receptor agonist, Ro 64-6198, have not been studied in primate species. The aim of the study was to verify the receptor mechanism underlying the behavioral effects of Ro 64-6198 and to systematically compare behavioral effects of Ro 64-6198 with those of a mu-opioid receptor agonist, alfentanil, in monkeys. Both Ro 64-6198 (0.001-0.06 mg/kg, s.c.) and alfentanil (0.001-0.06 mg/kg, s.c.) produced antinociception against an acute noxious stimulus (50 degrees C water) and capsaicin-induced allodynia. An NOP receptor antagonist, J-113397 (0.01-0.1 mg/kg, s.c.), dose-dependently produced rightward shifts of the dose-response curve of Ro 64-6198-induced antinociception. The apparent pA(2) value of J-113397 was 8.0. Antagonist studies using J-113397 and naltrexone revealed that Ro 64-6198 produced NOP receptor-mediated antinociception independent of mu-opioid receptors. In addition, alfentanil dose-dependently produced respiratory depression and itch/scratching responses, but antinociceptive doses of Ro 64-6198 did not produce such effects. More important, Ro 64-6198 did not produce reinforcing effects comparable with those of alfentanil, cocaine, or methohexital under self-administration procedures in monkeys. These results provide the first functional evidence that the activation of NOP receptors produces antinociception without reinforcing effects in primates. Non-peptidic NOP receptor agonists may have therapeutic value as novel analgesics without abuse liability in humans.