Recent studies have suggested that glia might play a more active role in synaptic function than previously thought. Therefore, the present studies have evaluated the potential role of spinal cord glia in acute nociceptive processing and in the thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia produced by peripheral injury. In the present experiments, we found that: (1) selective inhibition of glia metabolism with intrathecal (i.t.) administration of fluorocitrate (1 nmol) results in a marked, but reversible, attenuation of the persistent thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia produced by intraplantar zymosan (5 mg); (2) selective inhibition of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) with i.t. aminoguanidine (1 pmol-1 nmol) resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of the persistent thermal, but not mechanical hyperalgesia produced by intraplantar zymosan (5 mg); (3) i.t. coadministration of interleukin 1 beta (IL1 beta; 10 ng) and interferon gamma (IFN; 1000 U) resulted in expression of the message for iNOS 8 hr after administration assessed using reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Southern blot analysis; and (4) i.t. administration of lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 150 micrograms) produced a time-dependent thermal hyperalgesia compared with saline treated-rats (15 microliters). There was no change in mechanical withdrawal thresholds over time following any treatment, except fluorocitrate. We have previously shown that NO plays a significant role in mechanisms of hyperalgesia. In the present experiments we have extended these observations and have now shown a role for iNOS, expressed by glia, in mechanisms of hyperalgesia. These results suggest an unexplored avenue for the development of potential new and novel therapies for pain control.