Abstract The dorsal portion of the nucleus submedius of the rat thalamus receives spinal and trigeminal projections which may convey noxious inputs. The present study was undertaken to analyse the fine structure of the nucleus with particular reference to a possible trigemino-thalamo-prefrontal cortical pathway relaying in nucleus submedius. Presynaptic terminals in the dorsal portion of the nucleus submedius were classified into three broad categories usually observed in thalamic nuclei: “small round”, “flat” and “large round” types. Axonal tracing using either anterograde transport of horseradish peroxidase or degeneration methods indicated that some “small round” terminals originate from the pre-frontal cortex. Some “large round” terminals were labelled from the trigeminal subnucleus caudalis. These “large round” terminals exhibited distinct morphological features when compared with trigeminal terminals in other thalamic nuclei. In particular they made synaptic contacts predominantly with dendritic protrusions and were surrounded by multilamellate astrocytic processes. Double-labelling experiments were performed by means of the combined retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase and Wallerian degradation techniques. Terminals degrading after lesion of the trigeminal subnucleus caudalis contacted submedius neurons labelled retrogradely from the prefrontal cortex. These observations demonstrate the existence of a direct monosynaptically relayed pathway from subnucleus caudalis to prefrontal cortex which relays in the dorsal part of nucleus submedius.