In the human colon, vanilloid receptor TRPV1 is overexpressed both in afferent nerve terminals and in epithelial cells during inflammation. In the past years, pharmacological experiments using TRPV1 agonists and antagonists revealed that TRPV1 receptors may play proinflammatory and protective roles in the gastrointestinal tract. Here, we applied a genetic approach to define the role of TRPV1 and analyzed the effects of dinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (DNBS)-induced colitis in TRPV1-deficient (TRPV1-/-) mice. Intrarectal infusion of DNBS induced increased inflammation in TRPV1-/- mice compared to wild-type littermates (TRPV1+/+) as evaluated by macroscopic scoring and myeloperoxidase assays. This finding indicates that TRPV1 receptors are required for the protection within sensory pathways that regulate the response following the initiation of colonic inflammation. Electrophysiological recordings from circular smooth-muscle cells, performed 8 and 24 h after DNBS treatment, revealed strong spontaneous oscillatory action potentials in TRPV1-/- but not in TRPV1+/+ colons, indicating an early TRPV1-mediated control of inflammation-induced irritation of smooth-muscle activities. These unexpected results suggest that TRPV1 receptors mediate endogenous protection against experimentally induced colonic inflammation.