By using a baculovirus expression system, the two isoforms of the rat D2 dopamine receptor were expressed at densities ranging up to 15 pmol/mg of protein. D2L and D2S dopamine receptors expressed in aline of Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) insect cells Sf9cells, displayed high affinity for the antagonists spiroperidol and (+)-butaclamol and the agonist N-propylnorapomorphine. Antisera raised against the D2 receptor immunoprecipitated binding sites for a radiolabeled D2 antagonist from solubilized extracts of infected Sf9cells. In immunoblots of Sf9cells infected with recombinant D2 baculovirus, these antisera recognized a major species of protein of approximately 46 kDa. Photoaffinity-labeling of infected Sf9cells using N-(p-azido-m-[125I]iodophenethyl)spiperone also identified a protein of this size, suggesting that D2 receptors expressed in Sf9cells are largely unglycosylated. In cells expressing receptors at a density greater than 1 pmol/mg, GTP-sensitive, high-affinity binding of agonists was not detected in studies of the inhibition of the binding of a radiolabeled D2 antagonist. When expression levels were under 1 pmol/mg, the binding of agonists was sensitive to the addition of guanine nucleotides, indicating that D2 receptors were coupled to endogenous G proteins. Endogenous G proteins enable both isoforms of D2 receptors to couple to the inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity. The high-affinity state of the D2 receptor was directly measured using a radiolabeled agonist. Although the density of receptors increased with longer times after infection, the density of high-affinity sites reached a maximum of approximately 40 fmol/mg 30 to 36 hr after infection. Coexpression of D2 receptors and G protein subunits in Sf9cells dramatically increased the density of high-affinity sites, whereas the total density of receptors was unchanged, confirming that D2 receptors in Sf9 cells can exist in the high-affinity-coupled state, but that appropriate G proteins are expressed at relatively low levels. The density of D2S receptors converted to a coupled, agonist-preferring state when coexpressed with G proteins subunits (alpha i1, beta 1 and gamma 2) was 5 times greater than that of D2L receptors expressed under the same conditions, consistent with the hypothesis that D2 dopamine receptor isoforms differentially couple to alpha i1.