Investigation of hyperalgesia at the spinal transcriptome level indicated that carrageenan-induced inflammation of rat hind paws leads to a rapid but sustained increase in S100A8 and S100A9 expression, two genes implicated in the pathology of numerous inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and gout. In situ hybridization revealed that the elevation occurred in neutrophils that migrate to the spinal cord vasculature during peripheral inflammation, not in spinal neurons or glial cells. Immunohistochemical analysis suggests, but does not prove, that these neutrophils abundantly release S100A8 and S100A9. Consistent with this, we detected an increase in ICAM and VCAM, both indicators of endothelial activation, a known trigger for secretion of S100A8 and S100A9. Migration of S100A8- and S100A9-expressing neutrophils to spinal cord is selective, since MCP-1- and CD68-expressing leukocytes do not increase in spinal cord vasculature during hind paw inflammation. Examination of many neutrophil granule mediators in spinal cord indicated that they are not regulated to the same degree as S100A8 and S100A9. Neutrophil migration also occurs in the vasculature of brain and pituitary gland during peripheral inflammation. Together, these findings suggest an interaction between a subpopulation of leukocytes and the CNS during peripheral tissue inflammation, as implied by an apparent release and possible diffusion of S100A8 and S100A9 through the endothelial blood-brain barrier. Although the present findings do not establish the neurophysiological or behavioral relevance of these observations to nociceptive processing, the data raise the possibility that selective populations of leukocytes may communicate the presence of disease or tissue damage from the periphery to cells in the central nervous system.