The neurotransmitters/modulators involved in the interaction between pulmonary neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) and the vagal sensory component of their innervation have not yet been elucidated. Because P2X(3) purinoreceptors are known to be strongly expressed in peripheral sensory neurons, the aim of the present study was to examine the localization of nerve endings expressing P2X(3) purinoreceptors in the rat lung in general and those contacting pulmonary NEBs in particular. Most striking were intraepithelial arborizations of P2X(3) purinoceptor-immunoreactive (IR) nerve terminals, which in all cases appeared to ramify between calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)- or calbindin D28k (CB)-labeled NEB cells. However, not all NEBs received nerve endings expressing P2X(3) receptors. Using CGRP and CB staining as markers for two different sensory components of the innervation of NEBs, it was revealed that P2X(3) receptor and CB immunoreactivity were colocalized, whereas CGRP-IR fibers clearly formed a different population. The disappearance of characteristic P2X(3) receptor-positive nerve fibers in contact with NEBs after infranodosal vagal crush and colocalization of tracer and P2X(3) receptor immunoreactivity in vagal nodose neuronal cell bodies in retrograde tracing experiments further supports our hypothesis that the P2X(3) receptor-IR nerve fibers contacting NEBs have their origin in the vagal sensory nodose ganglia. Combination of quinacrine accumulation in NEBs, suggestive of the presence of high concentrations of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in their secretory vesicles, and P2X(3) receptor staining showed that the branching intraepithelial P2X(3) receptor-IR nerve terminals in rat lungs were exclusively associated with quinacrine-stained NEBs. We conclude that ATP might act as a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator in the vagal sensory innervation of NEBs via a P2X(3) receptor-mediated pathway. Further studies are necessary to determine whether the P2X(3) receptor-expressing neurons, specifically innervating NEBs in the rat lung, belong to a population of P2X(3) receptor-IR nociceptive vagal nodose neurons.