It has been previously reported that injection of neuroexcitatory compounds into the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) can produce an inhibition of nociceptive reflexes, often associated with a rise in arterial blood pressure. The aim of this study was to determine whether the subretrofacial (SRF) nucleus, which is a highly circumscribed group of cells within the RVLM known to play a major role in cardiovascular regulation also has an antinociceptive function. In barbiturate-anaesthetised and paralysed cats, unilateral microinjections of the neuroexcitatory compound sodium glutamate (8-20 nl of 0.5 M solution) into the SRF nucleus produced large increases in mean arterial pressure but had only small and inconsistent effects on the simultaneously measured ventral root responses to stimulation of primary afferent C-fibres. On the other hand, glutamate microinjections into RVLM sites closely adjacent to the SRF nucleus, or into the nucleus raphe magnus, produced powerful inhibition of the C-fibre evoked response in the ventral root which was accompanied by no or only small changes in arterial pressure. It is concluded that the SRF pressor cells do not exert any control over nociceptive spinal reflexes, but that such a function may be served by cells in closely adjacent parts of the RVLM. Moreover, the method of recording C-fibre evoked responses in ventral roots as a measure of the magnitude of nociceptive spinal reflexes, combined with the glutamate microinjection procedure, was shown to have a sufficient resolution to allow an accurate mapping of the location of antinociceptive cell groups within the ventrolateral medulla.