Alpha(1)-adrenergic receptors are one of the three subfamilies of G protein coupled receptors activated by epinephrine and norepinephrine to control important functions in many target organs. Three human subtypes (alpha(1A), alpha(1B), alpha(1D)) are derived from separate genes and are highly homologous in their transmembrane domains but not in their amino or carboxyl termini. Recent advances in our understanding of these "non-identical triplets" include development of knockout mice lacking single or multiple subtypes, new insights into subcellular localization and trafficking, identification of allosteric modulators, and increasing evidence for an important role in brain function. Although all three subtypes activate the same G(q/11) signaling pathway, they also appear to interact with different protein binding partners. Recent evidence suggests they may also form dimers, and may initiate independent signals through pathways yet to be clearly elucidated. Thus, this subfamily represents a common phenomenon of a group of similar but non-identical receptor subtypes activated by the same neurotransmitter, whose individual functional roles remain to be clearly established.