Elucidation of the gene structure of several receptors known to mediate the signal of hormone or transmitter binding to intracellular effector systems through guanine-nucleotide-binding proteins (G proteins) has revealed that these receptors comprise a super-family of related proteins. The hallmark of all G-protein-linked receptors is a presumed topography of 7 membrane-spanning loops, analogous to the structure of bacteriorhodopsin. Members of this gene superfamily contain regions, particularly with the hydrophobic domains, of homologous sequence. The expression of G-protein-linked receptors in heterologous cell systems has allowed for the study of the pharmacological and biochemical properties of individual receptor subtypes in a manner not previously possible with intact tissues containing multiple receptors. Site-directed mutagenesis experiments have identified many conserved amino acids which are involved in ligand binding, receptor activation by agonists and receptor-G protein coupling, and suggest that the conservation of receptor structure throughout this gene family may reflect a conservation of important functional domains within these proteins.