The aversive response to naloxone administration observed in human and animal studies suggests the presence of an endogenous opioid tone regulating hedonic state but the class(es) of opioid peptides mediating such opioid hedonic tone is uncertain. We sought to address this question using mice deficient in either beta-endorphin or pro-enkephalin in a naloxone-conditioned place aversion paradigm. Mice received saline in the morning in one chamber and either saline or naloxone (0.1, 1 or 10 mg/kg, s.c.) in the afternoon in another chamber, each day for 3 days. On the test day they were given free access to the testing chambers in the afternoon and the time spent in each chamber was recorded. Whereas wild-type and beta-endorphin-deficient mice exhibited a robust conditioned place aversion to naloxone, pro-enkephalin knockout mice failed to show aversion to naloxone at any dose tested. In contrast, these mice showed a normal conditioned aversion to the kappa opioid receptor agonist, U50,488 (5 mg/kg), and to LiCl (100 mg/kg) indicating that these mice are capable of associative learning. In a separate experiment, pro-enkephalin knockout mice, similar to wild-type and beta-endorphin-deficient mice, demonstrated a significant conditioned place preference to morphine (2.5, 5 and 10 mg/kg s.c.). These data suggest that enkephalins, but not endorphins, may mediate an endogenous opioid component of basal affective state and also indicate that release of neither endogenous enkephalins nor endorphins is critical for the acquisition or expression of the association between contextual cues and the rewarding effect of exogenously administered opiates.