The possible involvement of substance P released from primary afferents in rat skin was investigated in cutaneous inflammation following ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. Recordings from c-fibres innervating the UV-exposed hindpaw skin showed long-lasting low-frequency (0.8–1.25 Hz) spontaneous activity. Spontaneously active c-fibres increased to constitute 35.3% of the total population 72 h after UV exposure. Immunohisto-chemical analysis of substance P-containing nerve fibres in hindpaw skin revealed a significant increase in substance P immunoreactivity 24 h after UV irradiation. Average length of substance P-immunolabelled nerve fibres was about two times higher in UV-exposed compared to control skin. UV-induced oedema was investigated in rat ears using an ear-swelling test. Intradermal injection of either peptide (Spantide) or non-peptide (CP-96,345) substance P antagonists and epicutaneous application of CP-96,345 reduced UV-induced oedema significantly in the late phase of sunburn (>12 h after UV exposure). The UV-induced increase in skin blood flow was investigated in hindpaw skin up to 72 h by the laser Doppler technique. Epicutaneous application of CP-96,345 reduced erythema significantly between 12 and 72 h after UV exposure. Thus, our findings suggest the involvement of neurogenic substance P as a proinflammatory mediator in the late phase of UV-induced cutaneous inflammation in rats.