We examined two possible mechanisms of neuropathic pain: contribution of adjacent intact nerves and decrease in presynaptic inhibition at the central terminal of the injured primary afferent. To this end, we examined the effects of unilateral L5 spinal nerve ligation, which causes mechanical allodynia and heat hyperalgesia in the ipsilateral hind paw, on gene expression in L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons using in situ hybridization (ISH). Specifically, we examined changes in the expression of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) for neuropeptides which have been reported to be up- or down-regulated in the axotomized DRG neurons and for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor (GABAA-R) subunits which contribute to presynaptic inhibition at the primary afferent terminals. Seven days following ligation, ISH demonstrated an increase in signal intensity for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) mRNA in the subpopulation of small- to medium-sized L4 DRG neurons ipsilateral to the ligation which were not directly injured as compared to the contralateral side, although the overall percentages and the size distribution of positively labelled neurons for CGRP mRNA were not different between the bilateral L4 DRGs. This suggests that the L4 DRG neurons which express CGRP mRNA constitutively up-regulated the gene expression and the functional importance of these neurons has increased following L5 spinal nerve ligation. However, the mRNAs for other neuropeptides such as preprotachykinin (PPT), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), neuropeptide Y (NPY), and galanin (GAL), were not different between the bilateral L4 DRGs. The mRNA for the GABAA-Rγ2 subunit was significantly down-regulated in the medium- to large-sized L5 DRG neurons ipsilateral to the ligation as compared to the contralateral side. GABAA-Rα2 subunit mRNA also decreased in the ipsilateral L5 DRG neurons but did not reach statistical significance. There was no difference in mRNAs between the bilateral L4 DRGs. These data suggest that the presynaptic disinhibition of the ipsilateral L5 primary afferent terminals may be explained at least partly by the down-regulation of GABAA-R following L5 spinal nerve ligation. Thus, both the up-regulation of CGRP in adjacent intact nerves and the decrease in presynaptic inhibition at the central terminal of the injured primary afferent could cause the hyper-excitability of dorsal horn neurons and contribute to the molecular mechanisms of this neuropathic pain model.