In the rat neocortex, a subset of GABAergic interneurons express the neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Previously, we demonstrated that a population of VIPergic interneurons could be accurately identified by their irregular spiking (IS) pattern and their bipolar morphology. IS interneurons were studied in neocortical slices from 16-22-day-old rats using whole-cell recordings, intracellular labelling and single-cell RT-PCR. In response to a depolarizing pulse, IS interneurons typically discharged a burst of action potentials followed by spikes emitted at an irregular frequency. Several seconds of depolarization, micromolar concentrations of 4-aminopyridine, and nanomolar concentrations of either dendrotoxin I or K converted this irregular pattern to a sustained discharge, suggesting the involvement of an ID-like K+ current. The main glutamate receptor subunits detected in IS cells were GluR1 flop and GluR2 flop, GluR5 and GluR6, and NR2B and NR2D for the alpha-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA), kainate and N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) subtypes, respectively. Paired whole-cell patch-clamp recordings indicated that pyramidal neurons provide intracortical glutamatergic inputs onto IS interneurons. Most connections had high probabilities of response and exhibited frequency-dependent paired pulse depression. Comparison of the amplitude distribution of paired responses suggested that most of these connections consisted of multiple functional release sites. Finally, two discrete subpopulations of IS cells could be identified based on the duration of the initial burst of action potentials and the differential expression of calretinin and choline acetyltransferase.