A-77636 is a dopamine (DA) D1 receptor-selective agonist that was previously shown to elicit beneficial responses in animal models of Parkinson's disease (PD) (Kebabian et al.: Eur. J. Pharmacol. 229: 203, 1992). However, A-77636 is of limited potential for PD therapy because it induces rapid tolerance in vivo. To understand the basis of rapid onset of tolerance to the compound, we conducted studies to compare the in vitro properties of A-77636 and A-81686; the latter is a structurally related D1 agonist that did not induce significant tolerance in vivo under similar experimental conditions. With SK-N-MC, a neuroblastoma cell line, as an in vitro model for the D1 receptor, significant differences in D1 receptor function were noted after pretreatment with the two compounds. Specifically, 1-hr pretreatment with A-77636 resulted in significant residual cAMP production, even after the drug solution was removed and the cells were washed. The residual cAMP activity was selectively inhibited by SCH 23390, a selective D1 antagonist. The residual cAMP activity declined with pretreatment time, and after 4-hr pretreatment, little residual cAMP production was observed. Cotreatment of SK-N-MC cells with SCH 23390 and A-77636 did not prevent residual cAMP production by A-77636. In contrast, A-81686 did not elicit residual cAMP production is SK-N-MC cells. Although A-77636 treated cells were devoid of agonist response 4 hr after drug removal, A-81686-treated cells exhibited significant cAMP response after drug removal. Preincubation of rat striatal membranes with A-77636 resulted in a large decrease in D1 receptor binding, despite repeated washings, whereas A-81686 pretreatment caused only a small reduction in D1 receptor binding. On the basis of the present data, we conclude that A-77636 dissociates slowly from the D1 receptor. The continued activation of the D1 receptor by A-77636 leads to inability of the receptor to recover its responsivity, which may explain its long duration of action and its ability to induce rapid behavioral tolerance in vivo.