1. Using retrograde tracing with 1,1'-didodecyl-3,3,3', 3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI) in combination with electrophysiological and immunohistochemical techniques we determined the properties of the putative intrinsic primary afferent myenteric neurones with mucosal projections in the guinea-pig proximal colon. 2. Eighty-four out of eighty-five DiI-labelled myenteric neurones were AH neurones with a late after-hyperpolarization. Thirty-three per cent of them exhibited atropine- and tetrodotoxin-resistant spontaneously occurring hyperpolarizing potentials (SHPs) during which the membrane resistance and excitability decreased. 3. DiI-labelled AH neurones had multipolar Dogiel type II morphology, primarily of the dendritic type. Sixty-one per cent of the neurones were immunoreactive for choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and calbindin (Calb) and 23 % were ChAT positive but Calb negative. 4. DiI-labelled neurones did not receive fast excitatory postsynaptic potentials but 94 % (34/36) received slow excitatory postsynaptic potentials (sEPSPs). The neurokinin-3 (NK-3) agonist (MePhe7)-NKB but not the NK-1 agonist [(SAR9,Met(O2)11]-SP mimicked this response. The NK-3 receptor antagonist SR 142801 (1 microM) significantly decreased the amplitude and duration of the sEPSPs; the NK-1 receptor antagonist CP-99,994 (1 microM) was ineffective. Atropine (0.5 microM) increased the duration but not the amplitude of the sEPSPs. 5. Microejection of 100 mM sodium butyrate onto the neurones induced in 90 % of the DiI-labelled neurones a transient depolarization associated with an increased excitability. In neurones with SHPs sodium butyrate evoked, additionally, a late onset hyperpolarization. Perfusion of 0.1-10 mM sodium butyrate induced a dose-dependent increase in neuronal excitability. Sodium butyrate was ineffective when applied directly onto the mucosa. 6. Mucosally projecting myenteric neurones of the colon are multipolar AH neurones with NK-3-mediated slow EPSPs and somal butyrate sensitivity.