Previous studies have revealed that activation of rat striatal D(1) dopamine receptors stimulates both adenylyl cyclase and phospholipase C via G(s) and G(q), respectively. The differential distribution of these systems in brain supports the existence of distinct receptor systems. The present communication extends the study by examining other brain regions: hippocampus, amygdala, and frontal cortex. In membrane preparations of these brain regions, selective stimulation of D(1) dopamine receptors increases the hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol/phosphatidylinositol 4,5-biphosphate. In these brain regions, D(1) dopamine receptors couple differentially to multiple Galpha protein subunits. Antisera against Galpha(q) blocks dopamine-stimulated PIP(2) hydrolysis in hippocampal and in striatal membranes. The binding of [(35)S]GTPgammaS or [alpha-(32)P]GTP to Galpha(i) was enhanced in all brain regions. Dopamine also increased the binding of [(35)S]GTPgammaS or [alpha-(32)P]GTP to Galpha(q) in these brain regions: hippocampus = amygdala > frontal cortex. However, dopamine-stimulated binding of [(35)S]GTPgammaS to Galphas only in the frontal cortex and striatum. This differential coupling profile in the brain regions was not related to a differential regional distribution of the Galpha proteins. Dopamine induced increases in GTPgammaS binding to Galpha(s) and Galpha(q) was blocked by the D(1) antagonist SCH23390 but not by D(2) receptor antagonist l-sulpiride, suggesting that D(1) dopamine receptors couple to both Galpha(s) and Galpha(q) proteins. Co-immunoprecipitation of Galpha proteins with receptor-binding sites indicate that in the frontal cortex, D(1) dopamine-binding sites are associated with both Galpha(s) and Galpha(q) and, in hippocampus or amygdala, D(1) dopamine receptors couple solely to Galpha(q). The results indicate that in addition to the D(1)/G(s)/adenylyl cyclase system, brain D(1)-like dopamine receptor sites activate phospholipase C through Galpha(q) protein.