Abstract The distribution and ontogeny of four neuropeptides in developing chick lumbosacral sensory and sympathetic ganglia were studied using immunohistochemical techniques. Antibodies to two of these peptides, substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), stained small neurons in the medial part of the dorsal root ganglia from embryonic Day 5 and Day 10, respectively, whereas neurons in the lateral part of the ganglia were negative; this distribution persisted throughout development. Both sets of neurons apparently send fibers to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord: SP to laminae I and II, and CGRP to lamina I, suggesting that the SP- and CGRP-positive sensory neurons are nociceptive or thermoreceptive. This correlation between the presence of SP or CGRP in a neuron and a particular functional modality thus provides evidence for a functional distinction between the mediodorsal and ventrolateral zones that are apparent during the development of chick dorsal root ganglia. Moreover, this study suggests that the type of neuron that develops within the dorsal root ganglion correlates with its position within the ganglion. In contrast to SP and CGRP, somatostatin (SOM) and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) immunoreactivities were not seen in the lumbosacral sensory ganglia at any stage during development. However, both were present in sympathetic ganglia: SOM from embryonic Day 4.5 and VIP from embryonic Day 10. VIP immunoreactivity persisted throughout development in a large number of sympathetic neurons, but the number of cells with SOM immunoreactivity decreased from embryonic Day 10 onward. SOM therefore appears to be present only transiently in most chick lumbosacral sympathetic cells.