Light and electron microscopic quantitative analysis was carried out on a type of neuron intracellularly filled with horseradish peroxidase. Two cells were studied in area 17, one of which was injected intra-axonally, and its soma was not recovered. One cell was studied in area 18. The two somata were on the border of layers IVa/b; they were radially elongated and received synapses from numerous large boutons with round synaptic vesicles. The dendrites were smooth and remained largely in layer IV. The cells can be recognised on the basis of their axonal arbor, which was restricted to layer IV (90-95% of boutons) with minor projections to layers III, V, and VI. Many of the large, bulbous boutons contacted neuronal somata, short collaterals often forming "claw"-like configurations around cells. The name "clutch cell" is suggested to delineate this type of neuron from other aspiny multipolar cells. Computer-assisted reconstruction of the axon showed that in layer IV the axons occupied a rectangular area about 300 X 500 microns, elongated anteroposteriorly in area 17 and mediolaterally in area 18. The distributions of synaptic boutons and postsynaptic cells were patchy within this area. A total of 321 boutons were serially sectioned in area 17. The boutons formed type II synaptic contacts. The postsynaptic targets were somata (20-30%), dendritic shafts (35-50%), spines (30%), and rarely axon initial segments. Most of the postsynaptic somata tested were not immunoreactive for GABA and their fine structural features suggest that they are spiny stellate, star pyramidal, and pyramidal neurons. The characteristics of most of the postsynaptic dendrites and spines also suggest that they belong to these spiny neurons. A few of the postsynaptic dendrites and somata exhibited characteristics of cells with smooth dendrites and these somata were immunoreactive for GABA. It is suggested that clutch cells are inhibitory interneurons exerting their effect mainly on layer IV spiny neurons in an area localised perhaps to a single ocular dominance column. The specific laminar location of the axons of clutch cell also suggests that they may be associated with the afferent terminals of lateral geniculate nucleus cells, and could thus be responsible for generating some of the selective properties of neurons of the first stage of cortical processing.