GABAergic interneurons sculpt the activity of principal cells and are themselves governed by GABAergic inputs. To determine directly some of the sources and mechanisms of this GABAergic innervation, we have used dual intracellular recordings with biocytin-filled microelectrodes and investigated synaptic interactions between pairs of interneurons in area CA1 of the adult rat hippocampus. Of four synaptically-coupled interneuron-to-interneuron cell pairs, three presynaptic cells were identified as basket cells, preferentially innervating somata and proximal dendrites of pyramidal cells, but one differing from the other two in the laminar distribution of its dendritic and axonal fields. The fourth presynaptic interneuron was located at the border between strata lacunosum moleculare and radiatum, with axon ramifying within stratum radiatum. Action potentials evoked in all four presynaptic interneurons were found to elicit fast hyperpolarizing inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (mean amplitude 0.35 +/- 0.10 mV at a membrane potential of -59 +/- 2.8 mV) in other simultaneously recorded interneurons (n=4). In addition, three of the presynaptic interneurons were also shown to produce similar postsynaptic responses in subsequently recorded pyramidal cells (n=4). Electron microscopic evaluation revealed one of the presynaptic basket cells to form 12 synaptic junctions with the perisomatic domain (seven somatic synapses and five synapses onto proximal dendritic shafts) of the postsynaptic interneuron in addition to innervating the same compartments of randomly-selected local pyramidal cells (50% somatic and 50% proximal dendritic synapses, n=12). In addition, light microscopic analysis also indicated autaptic self-innervation in basket (12 of 12) and bistratified cells (six of six). Electron microscopic investigation of one basket cell confirmed six autaptic junctions made by five of its boutons. Together, these data demonstrate that several distinct types of interneuron have divergent output to both principal cells and local interneurons of the same (basket cells) or different type. The fast synaptic effects, probably mediated by GABA in both postsynaptic interneurons and principal cells are similar. These additional sources of GABA identified here in the input to GABAergic cells could contribute to the differential temporal patterning of distinct GABAergic synaptic networks.