A total of 443 pelvic nerve afferent fibers in the L6 dorsal root of the rat were identified by electrical stimulation of the pelvic nerve; 319 (72%) were myelinated A delta fibers with a mean conduction velocity (CV) of 11.8 m/s and 124 (28%) were unmyelinated C fibers with mean CV of 1.9 m/s. Two hundred fifty-two fibers (57%) responded to noxious urinary bladder distension (UBD; 80 mmHg); 108 were C fibers (mean CV; 1.9 m/s) and 144 were A delta fibers (mean CV; 8.2 m/s). Forty-nine UBD-sensitive fibers were further characterized; all gave monotonic increases in firing to increasing distending pressures. Thirty-six fibers (73%) had a low-threshold (LT) for response (mean: 6 mmHg) and 13 fibers (27%) had high-thresholds (HT) for response (mean: 32 mmHg). Responses of 15 fibers to graded UBD (11 LT and 4 HT) were tested before and after instillation of 0.5 ml of 30% xylenes (n = 11) or 5% mustard oil (n = 4) into the bladder. The mean resting activity of 13 fibers significantly increased, and 7 fibers exhibited sensitization of responses to graded UBD 30 min after xylenes or mustard oil instillation. All 4 HT fibers were sensitized; 3 of the 11 LT fibers were sensitized (i.e., gave increased responses to UBD). The effects of opioid receptor agonists were tested on responses to noxious UBD (80 mmHg). Cumulative intraarterial doses of mu-opioid receptor agonists (morphine, 8 mg/kg, and fentanyl, 300 micrograms/kg) and of delta-opioid receptor agonists (DPDPE, 300 micrograms/kg, and SNC-80, 300 micrograms/kg) did not affect responses to noxious UBD. In contrast, cumulative 16 mg/kg intraarterial doses of the kappa-opioid receptor agonists U50,488H, U69,593 and U62,066 dose-dependently attenuated responses to noxious UBD. There were no differences in the dose-response relationships of these drugs on afferent fibers from untreated and xylenes- or mustard oil-treated urinary bladder. These results reveal that there is a greater proportion of UBD-sensitive fibers in the L6 dorsal root (57%) than in the S1 dorsal root of the rat (38%; a previous study). The attenuation of responses to UBD by kappa, but not mu or delta opioid receptor agonists suggests a potential use for peripherally acting kappa opioid receptor agonists in the control of urinary bladder pain.