Activation of heterotrimeric G proteins by their cognate seven transmembrane domain receptors is believed to involve conformational changes propagated from the receptor to the G proteins. However, the nature of these changes remains unknown. We monitored the conformational rearrangements at the interfaces between receptors and G proteins and between G protein subunits by measuring bioluminescence resonance energy transfer between probes inserted at multiple sites in receptor-G protein complexes. Using the data obtained for the alpha(2A)AR-G alpha(i1) beta1gamma2 complex and the available crystal structures of G alpha(i1) beta1gamma2, we propose a model wherein agonist binding induces conformational reorganization of a preexisting receptor-G protein complex, leading the G alpha-G betagamma interface to open but not dissociate. This conformational change may represent the movement required to allow nucleotide exit from the G alpha subunit, thus reflecting the initial activation event.