The aim of the present study was to explore the possible role of kappa/dynorphin system in the development of tolerance to nicotine antinociception in mice. First, we observed that kappa-opioid receptor (KOP-r) participates in the acute spinal antinociception produced by nicotine (3 and 5 mg/kg, s.c.) since the pre-treatment with the selective kappa antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (3 mg/kg, i.p.) attenuated this response in the tail-immersion test but not in the hot-plate test nor in locomotor responses. Possible changes in the expression of KOP-r were investigated in tolerant mice to nicotine antinociception by using autoradiography of [3H]CI-977 binding. The density of KOP-r decreased in the spinal cord of tolerant mice. In addition, bi-directional cross-tolerance between nicotine (3 and 5 mg/kg, s.c.) and the selective kappa agonist U50,488H (10 mg/kg, s.c.) was found in the tail-immersion test. Recent evidences indicate that an up-regulation of dynorphin levels in the spinal cord and subsequent activation of NMDA receptors participate in the development of tolerance to opioid and cannabinoid antinociception. In this study, dynorphin content in the lumbar spinal cord was similar in control and nicotine tolerant mice. Furthermore, the administration of the NMDA antagonist MK-801 (0.03 and 0.01 mg/kg, i.p.) before each daily nicotine injection did not modify the development of nicotine tolerance. In summary, these data indicate that KOP-r is directly involved in the development of tolerance to nicotine antinociception by a mechanism independent from dynorphin and NMDA receptors.