Opioid tolerance and dependence are characterized in terms of inhibitory and excitatory neuronal mechanisms. Bacterial toxins were used to investigate these phenomena in the isolated guinea-pig ileum (GPI) and mouse vas deferens (MVD). Cholera toxin (CT) and pertussis toxin (islet activating protein; IAP) have been demonstrated to selectively impair the function of either the stimulatory or inhibitory nucleotide regulatory protein, mediating the signal transmission to the adenylate cyclase. It has been found that CT failed to affect electrically evoked twitch tension in naive and tolerant GPI and MVD. Twitch tension evoked by excitatory drugs, e.g. neurotensin, was attenuated in the GPI, but not in the MVD. CT did not interfere with the actions of opioids or nonopioids in either the GPI or the MVD. Similarly, IAP failed to affect electrically evoked twitch tension. It virtually lacked an effect on the inhibitory action of opioids and nonopioids on electrically stimulated naive and tolerant GPI and MVD. On the other hand, both CT and IAP dose-dependently attenuated the naloxone precipitated withdrawal contracture in the GPI rendered opioid-dependent. These findings may suggest that opioid receptors at nerve terminals of the GPI and the MVD are not linked to adenylate cyclase, and those receptors relate to the state of tolerance. In contrast, opioid receptors located at nerve somata may be linked to adenylate cyclase. Those receptors may be associated with the development of dependence. The experiments with CT suggest a synaptic excitatory input of neighboring nerve elements necessary for the generation of a withdrawal contracture.