The goal of this study was to functionally express the three G(q)-coupled muscarinic receptor subtypes, M(1), M(3) and M(5), in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Transformation of yeast with expression constructs coding for the full-length receptors resulted in very low numbers of detectable muscarinic binding sites (B(max) < 5 fmol/mg). Strikingly, deletion of the central portion of the third intracellular loops of the M(1), M(3) and M(5) muscarinic receptors resulted in dramatic increases in B(max) values (53-214 fmol/mg). To monitor productive receptor/G-protein coupling, we used specifically engineered yeast strains that required agonist-stimulated receptor/G-protein coupling for cell growth. These studies showed that the shortened versions of the M(1), M(3) and M(5) receptors were unable to productively interact with the endogenous yeast G protein alpha-subunit, Gpa1p, or a Gpa1 mutant subunit that contained C-terminal mammalian Galpha(s) sequence. In contrast, all three receptors gained the ability to efficiently couple to a Gpa1/Galpha(q) hybrid subunit containing C-terminal mammalian Galpha(q) sequence, indicating that the M(1), M(3) and M(5) muscarinic receptors retained proper G-protein coupling selectivity in yeast. This is the first study to report the expression of muscarinic receptors in a coupling-competent form in yeast. The strategy described here, which involves structural modification of both receptors and co-expressed G proteins, should facilitate the functional expression of other classes of G protein-coupled receptors in yeast.