For 5 consecutive days repeated intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administration of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) to G alpha subunit mRNAs was used to impair the function of mouse Gi1, Gi2, Gi3 and Gx/z regulatory proteins. Decreases of 20 to 60% on the G alpha-like immunoreactivity could be observed in neural structures of mouse brain, an effect that was not produced by a random-sequence ODN used as a control. The ODN to Gi1 alpha subunits lacked effect on opioid-evoked analgesia. In mice injected with the ODN to Gi2 alpha subunits the antinociceptive activity of all the opioids studied appeared greatly impaired. The ODN to Gi3 alpha subunits reduced the effects of the selective agonists of delta opioid receptors, [D-Pen2,5]-enkephalin and [D-Ala2]deltorphin II. Conversely, the analgesia evoked by opioids binding mu opioid receptors, [D-Ala2, N-MePhe4,Gly-ol5]enkephalin and morphine, appeared consistently and significantly attenuated in mice injected with the ODN to Gx/z alpha. The effect of the neuropeptide beta-endorphine-(1-31) agonist at mu and delta receptors was also reduced by ODNs to Gi3 alpha or Gx/z alpha subunits. l.c.v. injection of antibodies directed to these G alpha subunits antagonized opioid-induced analgesia with a pattern similar to that observed for the ODNs. Thus, the mu and delta opiod receptors regulate different classes of G transducer proteins to mediate the analgesic effect of agonists. The in vivo antisense strategy and the use of specific antibodies to G alpha subunits gave comparable results, indicating that in the neural tissue the mRNAs and the G alpha subunits can be accessed by the corresponding ODNs and IgGs.