We have measured plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of nociceptin, the endogenous agonist of the orphan opioid receptor-like receptor (ORL- 1). We studied two groups of ten patients presenting for elective Caesarean section (Group E) or in established labour and requiring combined spinal epidural anaesthesia for pain relief (Group L). Nociceptin was identified in all CSF samples with mean±SD concentrations of 52.49±34.25 and 63.39±33.26 pg/ml in groups E and L, respectively. Nociceptin was identified in 16/20 plasma samples with mean±SD concentrations of 7.59±21.58 and 13 73±23.79 pg/ml in groups E and L, respectively. CSF concentrations were significantly higher than plasma concentrations and there were no differences between groups E and L. These data report the first measurements of CSF nociceptin in man and show no association with the acute pain of labour.