Filling the urinary bladder via a urethral cannula and preventing its voiding in anaesthetized rats led to rhythmic contractions of the detrusor muscle, which lasted for more than 1 h. This rhythmic activity ceased about 30 min after a s.c. injection of 50 mg kg-1 capsaicin. The contractile response of the detrusor to topically applied capsaicin was lost after systemic administration of the toxin, whereas no change in the sensitivity to acetylcholine was observed. Urinary bladders of normal rats had a capacity of about 1 ml. Bladders of rats treated with capsaicin as neonates held a volume of more than 5 ml without contracting. Such bladders were insensitive to topically applied capsaicin but they contracted to acetylcholine as strongly as the bladders of control rats. During an observation period of 3 days control rats gained weight at night and lost weight by day. Rats treated with capsaicin as neonates showed little fluctuation in body weight. Such rats hardly excreted any urine by day although at night they excreted as much as controls. A water load of 5 ml 100 g-1 was excreted by control rats within 3 h. Rats treated with capsaicin as neonates excreted only half as much. In addition, 50% of the water load was excreted far later by capsaicin treated rats than by controls. Few changes were observed in rats treated with capsaicin as adults. It is concluded that all primary afferent fibres mediating the sensation of a full bladder are capsaicin-sensitive. An additional effect of capsaicin on renal mechanisms cannot be excluded.