Although it is well established that adenosine exerts antinociceptive effects at the spinal level in various species including human, the mechanisms responsible for such effects are still a matter of debate. We presently investigated whether adenosine-induced antinociception might possibly be related to an inhibitory influence of this neuromodulator on the spinal release of neuropeptides implicated in the transfer and/or control of nociceptive signals. For this purpose, the K(+)-evoked overflow of substance P-, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)- and cholecystokinin-like materials was measured from slices of the dorsal half of the rat lumbar enlargement superfused with an artificial cerebrospinal fluid supplemented with increasing concentrations of various adenosine receptor ligands. The data showed that stimulation of adenosine A(1) and (possibly) A(3) receptors, but not A(2A) receptors, exerted an inhibitory influence on the spinal release of CGRP-like material. In contrast, none of the adenosine A(1), A(2A) and A(3) receptor agonists tested within relevant ranges of concentrations significantly affected the release of substance P- and cholecystokinin-like materials. These results support the idea that adenosine-induced antinociception at the spinal level might possibly be caused, at least partly, by the stimulation of inhibitory adenosine A(1) receptors located presynaptically on primary afferent fibres containing CGRP but not substance P.