Regulatory GTP-binding proteins (G proteins) are membrane-attached heterotrimers (alpha, beta, gamma) that mediate cellular responses to a wide variety of extracellular stimuli. They undergo a cycle of guanine-nucleotide exchange and GTP hydrolysis, during which they dissociate into alpha-subunit and beta gamma complex. The roles of G-protein alpha-subunits in these processes and for the specificity of signal transduction are largely established; the beta- and gamma-subunits are essential for receptor-induced G-protein activation and seem to be less diverse and less specific. Although the complementary DNAs for several beta-subunits have been cloned, isolated subunits have only been studied as beta gamma complexes. Functional differences have been ascribed to the gamma-subunit on the basis of extensive sequence similarity among beta-subunits and apparent heterogeneity in gamma-subunit sequences. Beta gamma complexes can interact directly or indirectly with different effectors. They seem to be interchangeable in their interaction with pertussis toxin-sensitive alpha-subunits, so we tested this by microinjecting antisense oligonucleotides into nuclei of a rat pituitary cell line to suppress the synthesis of individual beta-subunits selectively. Here we show that two out of four subtypes of beta-subunits tested (beta 1 and beta 3) are selectively involved in the signal transduction cascades from muscarinic M4 (ref. 4) and somatostatin receptors, respectively, to voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels.