An exaggerated exercise pressor reflex (EPR) contributes to exercise intolerance and excessive sympatho-excitation in the chronic heart failure (CHF) state. However, the components of this reflex that are responsible for the exaggerated EPR in CHF remain unknown. To determine whether muscle afferent function is altered in CHF, we recorded the discharge of group III and IV afferents in response to static contraction, passive stretch and hindlimb intra-arterial injection of capsaicin in sham and CHF rats. We also investigated the roles of purinergic 2X receptor (P2X) and the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (VR1) in mediating the altered sensitivity of muscle afferents. Compared with sham rats, CHF rats exhibited greater responses of group III afferents to contraction and stretch whereas the responses of group IV afferents to contraction and capsaicin were blunted. Hindlimb intra-arterial infusion of pyridoxal phosphate-6-azophenyl-2′,4′-disulfonic acid (PPADS), a P2X antagonist, attenuated the responses of group III afferents to contraction and stretch in CHF rats to a greater extent than in sham rats. Western blot data showed that P2X3 receptors were significantly upregulated in doral root ganglion (DRG) of CHF rats whereas VR1 receptors were significantly downregulated. Immunohistochemical evidence showed that immunostaining of the P2X3 receptors was more intense in both IB4-positive (C-fibre) and NF200-positive (A-fibre) neurons in DRG of CHF rats whereas the immunostaining of the VR1 receptors was decreased in IB4-positive neurons. These data suggest that group III afferents are sensitized whereas group IV afferents are desensitized in CHF, which is related to the dysfunction of P2X and VR1 receptors.