The palmitoylation of the human beta 2-adrenergic receptor (beta 2-AR) was studied in recombinant baculovirus-infected insect Sf9 cells. At 48 h post-infection, a high level expression of an epitope-tagged beta 2-AR (10-25 pmol/mg protein) was detected by [125I]iodocyanopindolol ([125I]CYP) binding assays. The identity of the receptor was confirmed both by photoaffinity labeling and immunoblotting. The fusion receptor displayed typical beta 2-AR pharmacological properties and conferred a beta-adrenergic sensitive adenylyl cyclase activity to the Sf9 cells. Moreover, exposure of the Sf9 cells to the beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol induced a rapid desensitization of the receptor-stimulated adenylyl cyclase activity. Purification of the epitope-tagged beta 2-AR by immunoprecipitation as well as by alprenolol-Sepharose affinity chromatography revealed that the receptor is covalently modified with palmitic acid in the insect cells as is observed in mammalian cells. In addition, short-term incubation of the cells with isoproterenol led to a specific increase in the incorporation of [3H]palmitate in the receptor, consistent with a rapid agonist-modulated turnover of the beta 2-AR-attached palmitic acid. These results suggest that agonist-mediated regulation of beta 2-AR post-translational palmitoylation could represent an other regulatory process for G protein-coupled receptors.