The role of anandamide in the development of inflammatory hyperalgesia and visceral hyperreflexia was studied in the rat urinary bladder. Animals were given intraperitoneal cyclophosphamide injection, which evokes painful hemorrhagic cystitis accompanied by increased bladder reflex activity. The vanilloid receptor 1 [transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1)] antagonist capsazepine, applied onto the serosal surface of bladders, significantly reduced the hyperreflexia. Mass spectrometric analysis revealed that cyclophosphamide injection significantly and persistently increased the anandamide content of bladder tissues. The increase in the anandamide content paralleled the development of reflex hyperactivity. Anandamide (1-100 microm), applied onto the serosal surface of naive bladders, increased the reflex activity in a concentration-dependent manner. Repeated anandamide applications did not produce desensitization of the response. The anandamide-evoked effect was blocked by capsazepine or by instillation of resiniferatoxin, the ultrapotent TRPV1 agonist, into the bladders 24 hr before the anandamide challenge. The cannabinoid 1 receptor antagonist SR141716A [N-piperidino-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methylpyrazole-3-carboxamide] significantly increased the potency of anandamide in enhancing bladder reflex activity in naive but not in cyclophosphamide-injected animals. Application of the fatty acid amide hydrolyze inhibitor palmitoylisopropylamine onto the serosal surface of bladders also increased the reflex activity both in naive and cyclophosphamide-injected rats. This latter effect in naive animals was blocked by capsazepine and by resiniferatoxin pretreatment. Finally, intravesical instillation of anandamide (50 microm) increased c-fos expression in the spinal cord, which was reduced by capsazepine or by resiniferatoxin pretreatment. These results suggest that anandamide, through activating TRPV1, contributes to the development of hyperreflexia and hyperalgesia during cystitis.