Kinins are among the most potent autacoids involved in inflammatory, vascular and pain processes. These short-lived peptides, including bradykinin, kallidin and T-kinin, are generated during tissue injury and noxious stimulation. However, emerging evidence also suggests that kinins are stored in neuronal elements of the central nervous system (CNS) where they are thought to play a role as neuromediators in various cerebral functions, particularly in the control of nociceptive information. Kinins exert their biological effects through the activation of two transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptors, denoted bradykinin B(1) and B(2). Whereas the B(2) receptor is constitutive and activated by the parent molecules, the B(1) receptor is generally underexpressed in normal tissues and is activated by kinins deprived of the C-terminal Arg (des-Arg(9)-kinins). The induction and increased expression of B(1) receptor occur following tissue injury or after treatment with bacterial endotoxins or cytokines such as interleukin-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. This review summarizes the most recent data from various animal models which convey support for a role of B(2) receptors in the acute phase of the inflammatory and pain response, and for a role of B(1) receptors in the chronic phase of the response. The B(1) receptor may exert a strategic role in inflammatory diseases with an immune component (diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis). New information is provided regarding the role of sensory mechanisms subserving spinal hyperalgesia and intrapleural neutrophil migration that occur upon B(1) receptor activation in streptozotocin-treated rats, a model of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in which the B(1) receptor seems to be rapidly overexpressed. Although it is widely accepted that the blockade of kinin receptors with specific antagonists could be of benefit in the treatment of somatic and visceral inflammation and pain, recent molecular and functional evidence suggests that the activation of B(1) receptors with an agonist may afford a novel therapeutic approach in the CNS inflammatory demyelinating disorder encountered in multiple sclerosis by reducing immune cell infiltration (T-lymphocytes) into the brain. Hence, the B(1) receptor may exert either a protective or detrimental effect depending on the inflammatory disease. This dual function of the B(1) receptor deserves to be investigated further.