Transformation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) from a quiescent to an active state initiates signal transduction. All GPCRs share a common architecture comprising seven transmembrane-spanning alpha-helices, which accommodates signal propagation from a diverse repertoire of external stimuli across biological membranes to a heterotrimeric G protein. Signal propagation through the transmembrane helices likely involves mechanistic features common to all GPCRs. The structure of the light receptor rhodopsin may serve as a prototype for the transmembrane architecture of GPCRs. Early biochemical, biophysical, and pharmacological studies led to the conceptualization of receptor activation based on the context of two-state equilibrium models and conformational changes in protein structure. More recent studies indicate a need to move beyond these classical paradigms and to consider additional aspects of the molecular character of GPCRs, such as the oligomerization and dynamics of the receptor.