Intracellular recordings were obtained from a class of neuron defined electrophysiologically as burst firing interneurons in layers V and VI in slices of adult rat somatomotor cortex. Four of these cells were recovered histologically. These four cells had resting membrane potentials between -68 and -80 mV, a mean input resistance of 77 +/- 16.2 M omega (measured from the voltage deflection produced by a 100 ms, 0.5 nA hyperpolarizing pulse delivered from a membrane potential of -80 mV) and responded to injections of depolarizing current from membrane potentials negative of -70 to -75 mV with an initial burst of action potentials followed by a complex afterhyperpolarization. In response to injection of larger (0.5-1.5 nA) hyperpolarizing current pulses from membrane potentials between -60 and -70 mV, 15 of 20 burst firing cells (three of four recovered histologically) that were tested displayed delayed inward rectification, and in all 20 cells of this type, responses to large negative current pulses were followed by a rebound depolarization that could initiate action potentials. Filling of four of these cells with biocytin and subsequent histological processing revealed that they were bitufted with sparsely to medium spiny dendrites and extensive local axon ramifications. These neurons are similar to low threshold spiking cells [Kawaguchi (1993) J. Neurophysiol. 69, 416-431]. Ultrastructural examination of the axons of three cells revealed that of 53 labelled terminals studied, the majority formed synaptic contacts with dendritic shafts. Filling neurons with biocytin during paired intracellular recordings resulted in three well labelled interneurons, each of which was postsynaptic to a simultaneously recorded pyramidal neuron. In these pairs both cells were identified, but the presynaptic axon was poorly labelled in one. In one of the two pairs in which the pre- and postsynaptic neurons were fully recovered, light microscopic assessment indicated that the axon of the presynaptic pyramid formed 12 close appositions with dendrites of the postsynaptic interneuron. Six of these appositions were examined at the electron microscopic level and were identified as possible synaptic contacts. In the other pair three of six close appositions observed at the light level were verified as possible synaptic connections at the ultrastructural level. These correlated electrophysiological and anatomical studies provide the first evidence for connections from pyramid to burst firing interneurons in the neocortex and indicate that these connections can be mediated by multiple synaptic contacts. The accompanying paper describes the functional properties of these connections.