1. In transverse slices of the spinal cord of the turtle, intracellular recordings were used to characterize and analyse the responses to injected current and activation of primary afferents in dorsal horn neurones. 2. A subpopulation of neurones, with cell bodies located centrally in the dorsal horn, was distinguished by the ability to generate a burst response following a hyperpolarization from rest or during a depolarization from a hyperpolarized holding potential. The burst response was inactivated at the resting membrane potential. 3. The burst response was mediated by a low threshold Ca2+ spike assumed to be mediated by T-type Ca2+ channels since it resisted tetrodotoxin and was blocked by 3 mM Co2+ or 100-300 microM Ni2+ and resembled the low threshold spike (LTS) described elsewhere. 4. Some burst-generating cells also displayed plateau potentials mediated by L-type Ca2+ channels. In these cells the burst following a hyperpolarizing current pulse, applied from the resting membrane potential, facilitated the activation of the plateau potential. Wind-up of the plateau potential was produced when the hyperpolarizing pulse generating the burst was repeated at 0.1-0.3 Hz or faster. 5. The burst response and the underlying low threshold Ca2+ spike were activated synaptically by primary afferent stimuli in a voltage range hyperpolarized from the resting membrane potential. 6. Cells with bursts were morphologically distinguishable from cells with bursts and plateau properties. 7. Our findings in this and the preceding paper show that the intrinsic response properties of particular subtypes of neurones in the dorsal horn have a profound influence on the amplitude and time course of the responses mediated by primary afferent fibres. We predict that these postsynaptic properties are probable targets for synaptic modulation.