A double-labelling procedure combining immunohistochemical staining with in situ hybridization using a radiolabelled cRNA probe was employed to demonstrate oestrogen receptor-like immunoreactivity and preproenkephalin-A mRNA in the medullary and spinal dorsal horn of female rats. Both markers labelled large numbers of neurons in the substantia gelatinosa and its trigeminal homologue. Many of these neurons were double-labelled, displaying both oestrogen receptor-like- immunoreactivity and preproenkephalin-A mRNA; cell counts showed that 40–60% of the of the oestrogen receptor-like-immunoreactive cells in the superficial laminae also were labelled for preproenkephalin-A mRNA, and that 60–70% of the preproenkephalin-A mRNA-labelled neurons in the same laminae displayed oestrogen receptor-like immunoreactivity. Previous studies have shown that oestrogen receptors can bind to the promoter region of the preproenkephalin-A gene, and studies on the hypothalamus have demonstrated that oestrogen regulates enkephalin expression in select neuronal populations. The present results demonstrate that enkephalinergic neurons in the superficial dorsal horn contain oestrogen receptors and suggest that oestrogen may play an important role in the modulation of sensory and nociceptive processing in the lower medulla and spinal cord.