Guinea pig magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs) of the supraoptic nucleus (SON) were studied using the in vitro slice preparation. Intracellular recordings were made with biocytin-filled electrodes, permitting immunocytochemical identification of the recorded cells as arginine vasopressin- (AVP) versus oxytocin- (OT) containing. Only AVP cells displaying a depolarizing potential (DP) fired phasically. The DP was associated with a transient inward current measured in voltage clamp, which exhibited a number of properties of the T-type calcium current: activation threshold of -64 mV, time course of up to 250 ms, blockade by nickel and augmentation by barium chloride. This current has not been reported previously in SON neurons. The T-type current (IT) was always associated with a damped oscillation of the membrane following the offset from hyperpolarizing steps. In all cells tested, an apamin-sensitive afterhyperpolarization (AHP) was observed, similar to the calcium-dependent potassium current (IK, Ca) described in rat SON and other CNS regions. Therefore, as with other CNS regions displaying damped oscillations, guinea pig SON cells possess both an IT and an IK, Ca. We have previously described an Ih activating at hyperpolarized potentials in these cells, which depolarizes the membrane to a range in which the IT and IK, Ca can interactively support oscillations. In summary, the IT and associated depolarizing potential appears to be a requisite feature for phasic firing in AVP cells of guinea pig SON.