Sensory input from various receptors in the periphery first becomes integrated in the spinal cord dorsal horn. The response of the spinal cord dorsal horn neurons to mechanical stimuli are classified as low threshold, high threshold, and wide dynamic range neurons. However, the response pattern of deep dorsal horn cells to heat has not been well described. In this study, the response of the spinal cord dorsal horn neurons to graded heat stimuli were characterized in 147 neurons in rats by extracellular single cell recording. After a differentiable cell was identified, the Peltier heat stimulator was applied to the receptive field and the base temperature was set at 30 degrees C. The heat stimulus was delivered for 10 s from 37-51 degrees C in 2 degrees C increments, with an inter-stimulus interval of 30 s. Out of the 147 neurons, five statistically distinguishable response patterns were identified by latent class cluster analysis. It is concluded that variation of temperature may account for the observed results and indicate functionally different subsets of heat-responsive cells in the deep dorsal horn.