5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is one of the major chemical mediators released in injured and inflamed tissue and is capable of inducing hyperalgesia in vivo. However, the cellular mechanisms of 5-HT-induced hyperalgesia remain unclear. Transient receptor potential V1 (TRPV1) plays a pivotal role in nociceptive receptors. In the present study, we determined whether 5-HT changes TRPV1 functions in cultured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons isolated from neonatal rats, using Ca(2+) imaging and whole-cell patch-clamp techniques. In more than 70% of DRG neurons, 5-HT potentiated the increases of [Ca(2+)](i) induced by capsaicin, protons and noxious heat. Capsaicin-induced current and depolarizing responses, and proton-induced currents were also augmented by 5-HT. RT-PCR analysis revealed the expression of 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(7) receptors in rat DRG neurons. Agonists for 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(7) receptors mimicked the potentiating effect of 5-HT, and their antagonists decreased it. In DRG ipsilateral to the complete Freund's adjuvant-injected inflammation side, expression levels of 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(7) mRNAs increased, and the potentiating effect of 5-HT was more prominent than in the contralateral control side. These results suggest that the PKC- and PKA-mediated signalling pathways are involved in the potentiating effect of 5-HT on TRPV1 functions through the activation of 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(7) receptors, respectively. Under inflammatory conditions, the increases of the biosynthesis of these 5-HT receptors may lead to further potentiation of TRPV1 functions, resulting in the generation of inflammatory hyperalgesia in vivo.