Phosphorylation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) by GPCR kinases (GRKs) is considered to play a critical role in the desensitization of responses mediated by these receptors. To explore the role of GRK2 in A2 adenosine receptor desensitization, we attempted to reduce specifically GRK2 expression in NG108-15 cells by stable transfection with an antisense rat GRK2 cDNA sequence. This yielded up to a 69% loss of GRK2 when compared with plasmid-transfected control cells, which correlated with a reduction in kinase activity when measured by the ability of cell lysates to promote light-dependent phosphorylation of rhodopsin. Levels of GRK3 were the same in antisense and plasmid-transfected controls. On addition of the A2 adenosine receptor agonist 5'-(N-ethylcarboxamido)adenosine, cyclic AMP accumulation was greater in GRK2 antisense cells as compared with plasmid control cells. In contrast, cyclic AMP accumulation via agonist stimulation of either IP-prostanoid or secretin receptors or by addition of forskolin was not significantly different among all clones examined. The increase in A2 adenosine receptor response could not be explained by changes in A2A adenosine receptor expression, as assessed by ligand binding experiments with the radioligand 2-3H-labelled 4-[2-[7-amino-2-(2-furyl)[1,2,4]triazolo[2,3-a][1,3,5]triazin-5-++ +ylamino]ethyl]phenol ([3H]ZM241385). These data show for the first time a direct correlation between expression of GRK2 and desensitization of natively expressed A2 adenosine receptors in intact cells, suggesting that GRK2 plays a major role in the regulation of these receptors. Key Words: G protein-coupled receptor kinase-G protein-coupled receptor-Antisense-NG108-15 cells-A2 adenosine receptors-Desensitization.