Although tramadol is known to exhibit a local anaesthetic effect, how tramadol exerts this effect is not understood fully. The effects of tramadol and its metabolite mono-O-demethyl-tramadol (M1) on compound action potentials (CAPs) were examined by applying the air-gap method to frog sciatic nerves, and the results were compared with those of other local anaesthetics, lidocaine and ropivacaine. Tramadol reduced the peak amplitude of the CAP in a dose-dependent manner (IC50=2.3 mM). On the other hand, M1 (1-2 mM), which exhibits a higher affinity for mu-opioid receptors than tramadol, did not affect CAPs. These effects of tramadol were resistant to the non-selective opioid receptor antagonist naloxone and the mu-opioid receptor agonist, DAMGO, did not affect CAPs. This tramadol action was not affected by a combination of the noradrenaline uptake inhibitor, desipramine, and the 5-hydroxytryptamine uptake inhibitor, fluoxetine. Lidocaine and ropivacaine also concentration-dependently reduced CAP peak amplitudes with IC50 values of 0.74 and 0.34 mM, respectively. These results indicate that tramadol reduces the peak amplitude of CAP in peripheral nerve fibres with a potency which is less than those of lidocaine and ropivacaine, whereas M1 has much less effect on CAPs. This action of tramadol was not produced by activation of mu-opioid receptors nor by inhibition of noradrenaline and 5-hydroxytryptamine uptake. It is suggested that the methyl group present in tramadol but not in M1 may play an important role in producing nerve conduction block.