Neurons on the rostral edge of the ventral surface of the right pleural ganglion were identified as elements of the circuit mediating the defensive tail withdrawal reflex of Aplysia. These neurons produced IPSPs in tail sensory neurons and were classified into two groups, RPI4 and RPI5, according to their affinity for an antibody directed against FMRFamide. RPI4 was not FMRFamide immunoreactive, and RPI5 was. RPI4 and RPI5 were found to have different electrophysiological profiles. The summated IPSPs in sensory neurons produced by RPI4 developed more rapidly and had a shorter duration than those produced by RPI5. In addition, RPI4 produced IPSPs in the tail motor neurons, whereas RPI5 did not. Both RPI4 and RPI5 received excitatory synaptic inputs from stimulation of the pleural-abdominal connective as well as peripheral nerves P8 and P9, which innervate the tail and posterior part of the animal's body. These inputs were sufficient to elicit spikes. In RPI4, the excitatory synaptic inputs were followed by short and transient hyperpolarization, whereas in RPI5, the excitatory synaptic inputs were followed by slow and long-lasting hyperpolarization. Excitatory inputs elicited in RPI4 by stimulation of peripheral nerves appeared to be mediated, at least in part, by activation of tail sensory neurons. Intracellular stimulation of sensory neurons produced EPSPs in RPI4 that appeared to be monosynaptic. These results suggest that inhibitory interneurons underlying the circuit of the tail withdrawal reflex may play roles in mediating or modulating neuronal responses to tail stimulation. By inhibiting tail sensory and motor neurons, these interneurons may reduce the effectiveness of an animal's response to stimulation of the tail.