The trigeminal motor nucleus contains the somata of motoneurons innervating the jaw muscles, but also those of interneurons that we have characterized morphologically and immunohistochemically previously. Here we compare their basic physiological characteristics and synaptic inputs from the peri-trigeminal area (PeriV) to those of motoneurons using whole-cell recordings made with pipettes containing biocytin in brainstem slices of rats that had a tracer injected into their masseters. Values for input resistance, spike duration and overall duration of afterhyperpolarization (AHP) were greater for interneurons than for motoneurons. Some interneurons (44%) and motoneurons (33%) had an outward rectification during depolarization. Hyperpolarization-induced inward rectification was seen predominantly in interneurons (85% vs. 31% for motoneurons). Few interneurons (15%) showed depolarization and time-dependent firing frequency accommodation, while half (52%) of the motoneurons did. Rebound excitation at the offset of hyperpolarization was more common in interneurons than in motoneurons (62% vs. 34%). Both populations received synaptic inputs from PeriV. These inputs were predominantly excitatory and were mediated by non-N-methyl-d-aspartate glutamatergic receptors. Response latencies and rise times of the evoked potentials were longer in interneurons than in motoneurons, suggesting that some of the inputs to interneurons could be polysynaptic and/or occurring at distal dendritic locations. Miniature synaptic events could be seen in about half of the neurons in both populations. These results suggest that interneurons can be clearly distinguished from motoneurons on the basis of some electrophysiological properties like the input resistance and spike and AHP durations, and the kinetics of their synaptic inputs from adjacent areas.