Intraperitoneal injection of an unmodified antisense peptide nucleic acid (PNA) complementary to mRNA of the rat neurotensin (NT) receptor (NTR1) was demonstrated by a gel shift assay to be present in brain, thus indicating that the PNA had in fact crossed the blood-brain barrier. An i.p. injection of this antisense PNA specifically inhibited the hypothermic and antinociceptive activities of NT microinjected into brain. These results were associated with a reduction in binding sites for NT both in brain and the small intestine. Additionally, the sense-NTR1 PNA, targeted to DNA, microinjected directly into the brain specifically reduced mRNA levels by 50% and caused a loss of response to NT. To demonstrate the specificity of changes in behavioral, binding, and mRNA studies, animals treated with NTR1 PNA were tested for behavioral responses to morphine and their mu receptor levels were determined. Both were found to be unaffected in these NTR1 PNA-treated animals. The effects of both the antisense and sense PNAs were completely reversible. This work provides evidence that any antisense strategy targeted to brain proteins can work through i. p. delivery by crossing the normal blood-brain barrier. Equally important was that an antigene strategy, the sense PNA, was shown in vivo to be a potentially effective therapeutic treatment.