The effect of dexamethasone (DEX) and its interaction with morphine has been studied on transmurallystimulated guinea-pig ileum preparation, gastrointestinal transit and analgesia. Transmurally-stimulated guinea-pig ileum preparation: DEX dose-dependently reduced the contractions of the ileum. Proteic synthesis inhibitors did not modify the inhibition induced by DEX whereas RU-38486, a glucocorticoid antagonist receptor, antagonized completely the inhibitory effect of DEX. Gastrointestinal transit: DEX was found to antagonize morphine-, atropine- and verapamil-induced constipation. Cycloheximide does not modify the DEX effects. RU-38486 reverses both the inhibitory action of DEX on gastrointestinal transit and its reducing effect on morphine-induced constipation. Analgesia: DEX reduced the antinociception induced by mu agonists, morphine, DAMGO and beta endorphin whereas the steroid exerted little or no influence on the antinociception induced by a delta1 agonist, DPDPE and delta2 agonist deltorphin II. DEX potentiated the antinociception induced by the K agonist, U50,488. Cycloheximide, a protein synthesis inhibitor, prevented the antagonism by DEX of responses to the mu opioid agonists. Finally, i.c.v. injection of DEX significantly reduced morphine analgesia in Swiss mice whereas no effects were observed in DBA/2J and C57BL/6 mice. In addition, i.p. injection of DEX significantly reduced morphine analgesia in all three strains. Our data indicate that in the rodent brain there is an important functional interaction between the corticosteroid and the opioid systems at least at the mu. receptor level, while delta and K receptors are modulated in different ways. These results, particularly the effects of drug interaction for i.c.v. administration, strongly confirm a central site for DEX and RU 38486 action as well as the use of different genetic strains may provide a useful approach for studying DEXmorphine analgesia interaction.