We have previously demonstrated that the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has an antinociceptive effect on various pain stimuli in a naloxone-reversible manner. In the present study, the role of the endogenous opioid peptide β-endorphin in DHA-induced antinociception was examined. DHA-induced antinociception was abolished when mice were pretreated with the μ-opioid receptor antagonist β-funaltrexamine (β-FNA) and the δ-opioid receptor antagonist naltrindole, but not by the κ-opioid receptor antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (nor-BNI) in the acetic acid-induced writhing test. In the radioligand binding assay, DHA itself did not have affinity for μ- , δ- or κ-opioid receptors. On the other hand, the pretreatment of anti-β-endorphin antiserum inhibited DHA-induced antinociception. Furthermore, the intracerebroventricular injection of DHA dose-dependently reduced writhing behavior, and this effect was inhibited by d-Phe-Cys-Tyr-Orn-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH(2) (CTOP) and naltrindole, but not nor-BNI. β-endorphin-induced antinociception was inhibited by the pretreatment of β-FNA, but not naltrindole or nor-BNI, and its levels in plasma were increased by DHA treatment. These findings suggest that the induction of antinociception by DHA may partially involve the μ-opioid receptor via the release of β-endorphin. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.