Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptides (CART) have been implicated in the regulation of several physiological functions, including pain transmission. A dense plexus of CART-immunoreactive fibres has been described in the superficial laminae of the spinal cord, which are key areas in sensory information and pain processing. In this study, we used antibody against CART peptide, together with markers for various types of primary afferents, interneurons and descending systems to determine the origin of the CART-immunoreactive axons in the superficial laminae of the rat spinal cord. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a marker for peptidergic primary afferents in the dorsal horn, was present in 72.6% and 34.8% of CART-immunoreactive axons in lamina I and II, respectively. The majority of these fibres also contained substance P (SP), while a few were somatostatin (SOM)-positive. The other subpopulation of CART-immunoreactive boutons in lamina I and II also expressed SP and/or SOM without CGRP, but contained vesicular glutamate transporter 2, which is present mainly in excitatory interneuronal terminals. Our data demonstrate that the majority of CART-immunoreactive axons in the spinal dorsal horn originate from peptidergic nociceptive primary afferents, while the rest arise from excitatory interneurons that contain SP or SOM. This strongly suggests that CART peptide can affect glutamatergic neurotransmission as well as the release and effects of SP and SOM in nociception and other sensory processes.