1. Simultaneous dendritic and somatic patch-clamp recordings were made from Purkinje cells in cerebellar slices from 12- to 21-day-old rats. Voltage responses to current impulses injected via either the dendritic or the somatic pipette were obtained in the presence of the selective I(h) blocker ZD 7288 and blockers of spontaneous synaptic input. Neurons were filled with biocytin for subsequent morphological reconstruction. 2. Four neurons were reconstructed and converted into detailed compartmental models. The specific membrane capacitance (C(m)), specific membrane resistance (R(m)) and intracellular resistivity (R(i)) were optimized by direct fitting of the model responses to the electrophysiological data from the same cell. Mean values were: C(m), 0.77 +/- 0.17 microF cm(-2) (mean +/- S.D.; range, 0.64-1.00 microF cm(-2)), R(m), 122 +/- 18 kOmega cm(2) (98-141 kOmega cm(2)) and R(i), 115 +/- 20 Omega cm (93-142 Omega cm). 3. The steady-state electrotonic architecture of these cells was compact under the experimental conditions used. However, somatic voltage-clamp recordings of parallel fibre and climbing fibre synaptic currents were substantially filtered and attenuated. 4. The detailed models were compared with a two-compartment model of Purkinje cells. The range of synaptic current kinetics that can be faithfully recorded using somatic voltage clamp is predicted fairly well by the two-compartment model, even though some of its underlying assumptions are violated. 5. A model of I(h) was constructed based on voltage-clamp data, and inserted into the passive compartmental models. Somatic EPSP amplitude was substantially attenuated compared to the amplitude of dendritic EPSPs at their site of generation. However, synaptic efficacy of the same quantal synaptic conductance, as measured by the somatic EPSP amplitude, was only weakly dependent on synaptic location on spiny branchlets. 6. The passive electrotonic structure of Purkinje cells is unusual in that the steady-state architecture is very compact, while voltage transients such as synaptic potentials and action potentials are heavily filtered.