We examined the mechanism of the inflammatory response induced by topical application of mustard oil (0.5-20.0%/20 microliters per ear) to the mouse ear compared to that of the response to capsaicin. The dose-dependent increases in plasma extravasation and ear thickness reached a maximum at approximately 30 min after mustard oil application. Topical pretreatment of ears with capsaicin (250 micrograms/ear) diminished mustard oil-induced plasma extravasation for up to day 7 but not at day 14 after treatment. However, desensitization of the exudative response was not evoked by reapplication of mustard oil to ears. The inflammatory response to mustard oil did not differ between the ears of mast cell-deficient mice and those of the congenic normal mice. Mustard oil-induced plasma extravasation was unaffected by pretreatment with histamine H1 and 5-HT2 receptor antagonists and the capsaicin-functional inhibitor, ruthenium red, which inhibit capsaicin-induced ear oedema. The endopeptidase inhibitor, phosphoramidon, enhanced the ability of mustard oil to increase dye leakage. The tachykinin NK1 receptor antagonist, SR 140333 ((S)1-[2-[3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1-(3-isopropoxyphenylacetyl)pi peridin-3-yl]ethyl]-4-phenyl-1-azoniabicyclo[2.2.2.]octane, chloride), not only inhibited mustard oil-induced plasma extravasation but also blocked the enhancement by phosphoramidon of the response to mustard oil. In contrast, the tachykinin NK2 receptor antagonist, SR 48968 ((S)-N-methyl-N[4-(4-acetylamino-4-phenylpiperidino)-2-(3,4,- dichlorophenyl)butyl]benzamide), and the tachykinin NK3 receptor antagonist, SR 142801 ((S)-(N)-(1-(3-(1-benzoyl-3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)piperidin-3-yl)pro pyl)-4- phenylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-methylacetamide), had no effect on plasma extravasation. The present results demonstrated that mustard oil induces mouse skin inflammation through a mechanism different from that for capsaicin. Mediators such as histamine and 5-HT from mast cells appear to be minor factors in the response to mustard oil. In addition, evidence supports the assumption that the tachykinin NK1 receptor is involved in this model.