Using riboprobe in situ hybridization we have studied the distribution of alpha2A-, alpha2B- and alpha2c-adrenoceptor (AR) mRNAs in the lumbar spinal cord in normal rats and after peripheral axotomy. A strong alpha2A- and alpha2C AR mRNA labelling was found in motoneurons and other cells in the ventral horns. In the dorsal horns strong alpha2A-AR mRNA labelling was found in all layers and in the lateral spinal nucleus, whereas alpha2C-AR mRNA was found in lower numbers of cells in various layers. The alpha2B-AR mRNA signal was only detected in some small cells superficially in the dorsal horn. With regard to axotomy only a marginal effect was observed for alpha2C-AR mRNA in the ventral horn. The results suggest that alpha2-ARs are involved both in sensory and motor processing.