Sensory ganglia (trigeminal, jugular, nodose, cervical and lumbar dorsal root ganglia) of the guinea-pig were investigated for the presence of a constitutive carbon monoxide-generating enzyme, heme oxygenase-2 (HO-2). A 36-kDa HO-2 immunoreactive protein was identified by Western blotting in protein extracts from dorsal root ganglia and localized by immunohistochemistry to all neuronal perikarya, including both substance P-positive and substance P-negative neurons, in all ganglia investigated. This ubiquitous distribution points to a general requirement for HO-2 in primary afferent neurons rather than to an association with a specific functionally defined subpopulation. Neither the axons of the sensory neurons nor their peripheral terminals in the skin and around visceral arteries were HO-2 immunoreactive. Explants of dorsal root ganglia with crushes placed on the dorsal roots showed accumulation of the neuropeptide, substance P, at the ganglionic side of the crush, but these axons were non-reactive to HO-2, indicating that there is no substantial transport of HO-2 towards the central ending of these sensory neurons. Collectively, the findings suggest that HO-2 exerts it major effects within the sensory ganglia themselves.