Cannabinoid compounds have been shown to produce antinociception and antihyperalgesia by acting upon cannabinoid receptors located in both the CNS and the periphery. A potential mechanism by which cannabinoids could inhibit nociception in the periphery is the activation of cannabinoid receptors located on one or more classes of primary nociceptive neurons. To address this hypothesis, we evaluated the neuronal distribution of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) in the trigeminal ganglion (TG) of the adult rat through combined in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). CB1 receptor mRNA was localized mainly to medium and large diameter neurons of the maxillary and mandibular branches of the TG. Consistent with this distribution, in a de facto nociceptive sensory neuron population that exhibited vanilloid receptor type 1 immunoreactivity, colocalization with CB1 mRNA was also sparse (<5%). Furthermore, very few neurons (approximately 5%) in the peptidergic (defined as calcitonin gene-related peptide- or substance P-immunoreactive) or the isolectin B4-binding sensory neuron populations contained CB1 mRNA. In contrast, and consistent with the neuron-size distribution for CB1, nearly 75% of CB1-positive neurons exhibited N52-immunoreactivity, a marker of myelinated axons. These results indicate that in the rat TG, CB1 receptors are expressed predominantly in neurons that are not thought to subserve nociceptive neurotransmission in the noninjured animal. Taken together with the absence of an above background in situ signal for CB2 mRNA in TG neurons, these findings suggest that the peripherally mediated antinociceptive effects of cannabinoids may involve either as yet unidentified receptors or interaction with afferent neuron populations that normally subserve non-nociceptive functions.