Phosphorylation of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor NR1 subunit (pNR1) in the spinal cord is associated with increased neuronal responsiveness, which underlies the process of central sensitization. Because of the importance of NR1 in central sensitization, the first goal of this study was to examine both time- and lamina-dependent changes in spinal NR1 and pNR1 expression in a chronic constriction injury (CCI) model of neuropathic pain. Increased excitability of capsaicin sensitive primary afferents (CSPAs), which express TRPV1 receptors, also contributes to central sensitization. Thus, we next examined whether the depletion of CSPAs with resiniferatoxin (RTX) modified the change of spinal NR1 and pNR1 expression induced by CCI. Experimental rats were euthanized at 1, 3, 7, 14, and 28 days post-CCI surgery and spinal cords processed for NR1 or pNR1 immunostaining. The number of NR1 or pNR1-immunoreactive neurons was significantly increased in all lamina (I-VI) of the ipsilateral L4/L5 dorsal horn from 1 or 7 days post-CCI, respectively. Pretreatment with RTX (0.3mg/kg, s.c. in the scruff of the neck or intraplantar) 2 days prior to CCI completely prevented induction of thermal hyperalgesia, but not mechanical allodynia in neuropathic rats. Interestingly, RTX treatment significantly attenuated the CCI-induced upregulation of NR1 and pNR1 in spinal laminae I-II and V-VI, but not laminae III-IV as compared with that of vehicle-treated CCI rats. These findings demonstrate that the increased expression of NR1 and pNR1 in spinal laminae I-II and V-VI is dependent on activation of CSPAs, which ultimately contribute to the development of thermal hyperalgesia in neuropathic rats.