The effects of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 on heat-evoked firing of spinal wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons were examined in a rodent model of neuropathic pain. Fifty-eight WDR neurons (1 cell/animal) were recorded from the ipsilateral spinal dorsal horns of rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI) and sham-operated controls. Relative to sham-operated controls, neurons recorded in CCI rats showed elevations in spontaneous firing, noxious heat-evoked responses, and afterdischarge firing as well as increases in receptive field size. WIN 55,212-2 (0.0625, 0.125, and 0.25 mg/kg, intravenous) dose-dependently suppressed heat-evoked activity and decreased the receptive field areas of dorsal horn WDR neurons in both nerve injured and control rats with a greater inhibition in CCI rats. At the dose of 0.125 mg/kg iv, WIN 55,212-2 reversed the hyperalgesia produced by nerve injury. The effect of intravenous administration of WIN 55,212-2 appears to be centrally mediated because administration of the drug directly to the ligated nerve did not suppress the heat-evoked neuronal activity in CCI rats. Pretreatment with the cannabinoid CB(1) receptor antagonists SR141716A or AM251, but not the CB(2) antagonist SR144528, blocked the effects. These results provide a neural basis for reports of potent suppression by cannabinoids of the abnormal sensory responses that result from nerve injury.