Lanthanum was used as a tracer substance to determine whether small molecules in the bulk extracellular space in dorsal root ganglia have access to the narrow cleft that separates sensory neurons from their surrounding satellite cell sheath. Results showed that lanthanum is able to diffuse into this cleft, especially when the tissue is incubated with the tracer before fixation. Lanthanum gained access to the cleft at the seam where adjacent satellite cell processes meet. There appears to be preferential access in the axon hillock-initial segment region. Large diameter light neurons, which generally support fast conducting myelinated axons and carry information about non-nociceptive sensory events, proved more likely to admit lanthanum than small diameter dark neurons, which tend to have thin myelinated and unmyelinated axons and typically carry nociceptive information. Peripheral axotomy triggered a reduction in the access of lanthanum to the neuron-satellite cell cleft. These data bear on the mechanism of non-synaptic cell-to-cell cross-excitation within dorsal root ganglia, and in particular, lend support to the hypothesis that this interaction is mediated chemically rather than electrically.