Detection of Fos protein expression by the peroxidase-antiperoxidase method was used to determine the area in the habenular (Hb) complex responding to electrical stimulation of the tooth pulp in the cat anaesthetized with pentobarbital. In the anaesthetic-injected group, the Fos-positive neurones were found bilaterally in the lateral Hb nucleus (HbL). Tooth pulp stimulation (intensity: 3 times the threshold for jaw-opening reflex) increased the number of positive neurones within the HbL by up to 300%, but did not induce any expression in the medical Hb nucleus. The increase in HbL was inhibited by morphine (2 mg kg-1, i.p.). These findings and the results of previous research suggest that HbL neurones are involved in defensive mechanisms by means of antinociception following noxious stimulation.