Neurotensin (NT) is a neuropeptide involved in the modulation of nociception. We have investigated the actions of NT on cultured postnatal rat spinal cord dorsal horn (DH) neurons. NT induced an inward current associated with a decrease in membrane conductance in 46% of the neurons and increased the frequency of glutamatergic miniature excitatory synaptic currents in 37% of the neurons. Similar effects were observed in acute slices. Both effects of NT were reproduced by the selective NTS1 agonist JMV449 and blocked by the NTS1 antagonist SR48692 and the NTS1/NTS2 antagonist SR142948A. The NTS2 agonist levocabastine had no effect. The actions of NT persisted after inactivation of Gi/o proteins by pertussis toxin but were absent after inactivation of protein kinase C (PKC) by chelerythrine or inhibition of the MAPK (ERK1/2) pathway by PD98059. Pre- and postsynaptic effects of NT were insensitive to classical voltage- and Ca2+-dependent K+ channel blockers. The K+ conductance inhibited by NT was blocked by Ba2+ and displayed no or little inward rectification, despite the presence of strongly rectifying Ba2+-sensitive K+ conductance in these neurons. This suggested that NT blocked two-pore domain (K2P) background K+-channels rather than inwardly rectifying K+ channels. Zn2+ ions, which inhibit TRESK and TASK-3 K2P channels, decreased NT-induced current. Our results indicate that in DH neurons NT activates NTS1 receptors which, via the PKC-dependent activation of the MAPK (ERK1/2) pathway, depolarize the postsynaptic neuron and increase the synaptic release of glutamate. These actions of NT might modulate the transfer and the integration of somatosensory information in the DH.