Capsaicin or vanilloid receptors (VRs) participate in the sensation of thermal and inflammatory pain. The cloned (VR1) and native VRs are non-selective cation channels directly activated by harmful heat, extracellular protons and vanilloid compounds. However, considerable attention has been focused on identifying other signalling pathways in VR activation; it is known that VR1 is also expressed in non-sensory tissue and may mediate inflammatory rather than acute thermal pain. Here we show that activation of protein kinase C (PKC) induces VR1 channel activity at room temperature in the absence of any other agonist. We also observed this effect in native VRs from sensory neurons, and phorbol esters induced a vanilloid-sensitive Ca2+ rise in these cells. Moreover, the pro-inflammatory peptide, bradykinin, and the putative endogenous ligand, anandamide, respectively induced and enhanced VR activity, in a PKC-dependent manner. These results suggest that PKC may link a range of stimuli to the activation of VRs.