Traditional assays that monitor cAMP inhibition by opioid receptor ligands require second-messenger accumulation over periods of 10-20 minutes. Since receptor regulation occurs within a similar time frame, such assays do not discriminate the actual signal from its modulation. Here we used bioluminescence resonance energy transfer to monitor inhibition of cAMP production by δ-opioid receptor (DOR) agonists in real time. cAMP inhibition elicited by different agonists over a period of 15 minutes was biphasic, with response buildup during the first 6 to 7 minutes, followed by a second phase of response decay or of no further increment. The rate at which the cAMP response disappeared was correlated with operational parameters describing ligand efficiency [log(τ/KA)] to promote Gαi activation, as well as with ligand ability to promote internalization during the time course of the assay. Thus, ligands that displayed low signaling efficiency and poor sequestration(SB235863 ([8R-(4bS*,8aα,8aβ,12bβ)]7,10-dimethyl-1-methoxy-11-(2-ethylpropyl)oxycarbonyl 5,6,7,8,12,12b-hexahydro-(9H)-4,8-methanobenzofuro[3,2-e]pyrrolo[2,3-g]isoquinoline hydrochloride), morphine) had minimal or no response decay. On the other hand, the decay rate was pronounced for deltorphin II, [d-Pen(2), d-pen(5)]-enkephalin, met-enkephalin, and SNC-80 ((+)-4-[(αR)-α-((2S,5R)-4-allyl-2,5-dimethyl-1-piperazinyl)-3-methoxybenzyl]-N,N-diethylbenzamide), which displayed high signaling efficiency and internalization. Moreover, inhibition of internalization by dynasore reduced or abolished response decay by internalizing ligands. Unlike acute responses, endocytic profiles were not predictive of whether an agonist would induce prolonged cAMP inhibition over sustained (30-120 minutes) DOR stimulation. Taken together, the data indicate that ligand ability to evoke G-protein activation or promote endocytosis was predictive of response duration over short, but not over sustained periods of cAMP inhibition.