In the present study, the origin of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) to the dorsal horn in the rat lumbar spinal cord is investigated. CGRP immunoreactivity is examined following multiple unilateral and bilateral dorsal rhizotomies and isolated cord preparations (spinal cords are isolated by transecting the cord in two places and cutting all dorsal roots between the transections). Seven to 11 days after surgery, unilateral multiple dorsal rhizotomies result in a drastic decrease in CGRP-stained terminals on the operated side; following bilateral dorsal rhizotomies and isolated cord preparations, one or two CGRP varicosities remain in the dorsal horn in each section. The numbers of CGRP-immunostained varicosities observed in the latter two preparations are not significantly different, suggesting that few if any axons descending from the brain contribute to the CGRP terminal population in the spinal cord dorsal horn. Based on these data, we hypothesize that dorsal root ganglion cells are the only source of CGRP to the rat lumbar dorsal horn.