Although MOR-1 encodes a mu opioid receptor, its relationship to the pharmacologically defined mu receptor subtypes has been unclear. Antisense mapping now suggests that these subtypes result from alternative splicing of MOR-1. Three oligodeoxynucleotide probes targeting exon 1 and another oligodeoxynucleotide directed against the coding region of exon 4 block supraspinal morphine analgesia, a mu1 action, while five of six oligodeoxynucleotides directed against exons 2 and 3 are inactive. Inhibition of gastrointestinal transit and spinal morphine analgesia, two mu2 actions, are blocked only by the probe against exon 4 and not by those directed against exon 1. In contrast, the analgesic actions of the extraordinarily potent mu drug morphine-6 beta-glucuronide are blocked by six different antisense oligodeoxynucleotides targeting exons 2 and 3, but not by those acting on exons 1 or 4. These results suggest that the mu1 and mu2 receptor subtypes originally defined in binding and pharmacological studies result from alternative splicing of MOR-1 while morphine-6 beta-glucuronide acts through a novel, previously unidentified receptor which is yet another MOR-1 splice variant.