Mas is a functional binding site for angiotensin (Ang)-(1-7), a critical component of the renin-angiotensin system that is involved in processing nociceptive information. A recent study reported the localization of Mas in rat dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and demonstrated that Ang-(1-7) produced a dose-dependent peripheral antinociceptive effect in rats through the Mas receptor by an opioid-independent mechanism. In the present study, we for the first time examined the effect of propofol on Mas expression in cultured DRG neurons. We treated rat DRG neurons with propofol at different concentrations (0.1, 0.5, 1, 5 or 10 microM) for different length of time (0.5, 1, 2, 4 or 6 h) with or without transcription inhibitor actinomycin D or different kinase inhibitors. Propofol increased the Mas receptormRNA level in a statistically significant dose- and time-dependent manner within 4 h, which led to dose-dependent up-regulation of the Mas receptor protein level as well as Ang-(1-7) binding on the cell membrane. Actinomycin D (1 mg/ml) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor PD169316 (25 microM) completely abolished the effect of propofol on Mas receptor expression in DRG neurons. In conclusion, we demonstrate that propofol markedly up-regulates Mas receptor expression at the transcription level in DRG neurons by a p38 MAPK-dependent mechanism. This study provides new insights into the mechanisms of action of propofol in peripheral antinociception, and suggests a new regulatory mechanism on the Ang-(1-7)/Mas axis in the peripheral nervous system.