BACKGROUND: Spinal metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and opioid receptors are involved in the modulation of nociception. Although opioid receptors agonists are active for pain, the effects of the compounds for the mGluRs have not been definitely investigated at the spinal level. We examined the effects of the intrathecal mGluR compounds and morphine in the nociceptive test, and then we further clarified the role of the spinal mGluRs. In addition, the nature of the pharmacological interaction after the coadministration of mGluRs compounds with morphine was determined. METHODS: Catheters were inserted into the intrathecal space of male SD rats. For the induction of pain, 50microl of 5% formalin solution or a thermal stimulus was applied to the hindpaw. An isobolographic analysis was used for the evaluation of the drug interaction. RESULTS: Neither group I mGluR compounds nor group III mGluR compounds produced any antinociceptive effect in the formalin test. The group II mGluR agonist (APDC) had little effect on the formalin-induced nociception. The group II mGluR antagonist (LY 341495) caused a dose-dependent suppression of the phase 2 flinching response on the formalin test, but it did not reduce the phase 1 response of the formalin test nor did it increase the withdrawal latency of the thermal stimulus. Isobolographic analysis revealed a synergistic interaction after the intrathecal delivery of a LY 341495-morphine mixture. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that group II mGluRs are involved in the facilitated processing at the spinal level, and the combination of LY 341495 with morphine may be useful to manage the facilitated pain state.