To describe a sympathetic afferent circuit, the left ureter was ligated in anesthetized rats for 1.5-2 h followed by immunocytochemical processing to localize expression of either the immediate early gene (IEG) c-fos or Krox-24 in the spinal cord or dorsal root ganglia (DRG). No IEG expression was detected in DRG. Both Fos and Krox-24 expression was found in the dorsal horn. More Fos immunocytochemically stained cells were found in the dorsal horn both ipsi- and and contralateral to the ligated ureter at spinal segments T10-T13 after ureteral than after either sham ligation or anesthesia control procedures. More Fos stained cells were in the dorsal horn ipsilateral to the ligated ureter than on the contralateral side. The Fos staining patterns in the dorsal horn of ligated and sham-ligated animals were similar with most labeled cells in dorsomedial portions of laminae I and II. In contrast, the Fos staining pattern in the dorsal horn in anesthetized animals (unoperated controls) was noticeably different from operated animals with the most Fos cells in the ventrolateral part of laminae I-II. These results indicate that (1) Fos Immunocytochemistry may be useful for tracing sympathetic afferent pathways, (2) the sensory pathway activated by ureteral ligation enters the spinal cord at lower thoracic levels, where renal and upper ureteral afferents are terminating, and (3) some of this sympathetic afferent pathway is located contralateral to the stimulated kidney. Neurons activated by ureteral ligation in the contralateral dorsal horn may mediate reno-renal reflexes.