1. Electrical field stimulation (EFS) of guinea-pig isolated main bronchi induced a non-adrenergic non-cholinergic (NANC) contractile response. Nociceptin (0.01-1 microm) significantly inhibited the contractile response to EFS (P<0.01), but not to capsaicin (P>0.05). 2. The mu-, delta- and kappa-opioid receptor antagonists, naloxone (0.3 microM), naltrindole (3 microM) and norbinaltorphimine (1 microm), respectively, did not significantly affect the inhibitory effect of nociceptin (0.03 microM; P>0.05). 3. The novel nociceptin antagonist, [Phe1psi(CH2-NH)Gly2]nociceptin(1-13)NH2 (0.03-1 microM); the sigma ligands, carbetapentane (30 microM), 3-phenylpiperidine (30-100 microM) and (+)-cyclazocine (10-100 microM) significantly reversed the inhibitory effect of nociceptin (0.03 microM, P<0.05). In contrast, rimcazole, did not significantly reverse the inhibitory effect of nociceptin (0.03 microM) at any concentration tested (P>0.05). 4. EFS of guinea-pig bronchial preparations significantly increased SP-LI release above basal SP-LI (P<0.05). In the presence of nociceptin (1 microM), EFS induced a significant increase in SP-LI release above basal SP-LI release (P<0.05). Nociceptin caused a 59+11% (n=5) inhibition of EFS-induced release of SP-LI. 5. Nociceptin reduces the release of sensory neuropeptides induced by EFS, but not capsaicin, from guinea-pig airways. These experiments provide further evidence for a role for nociceptin in regulating the release of sensory neuropeptides in response to EFS.