We have used the polymerase chain reaction technique to selectively amplify guanine nucleotide-binding regulatory protein (G protein)-coupled receptor cDNA sequences from rat striatal mRNA, using sets of highly degenerate primers derived from transmembrane sequences of previously cloned G protein-coupled receptors. A novel cDNA fragment was identified, which exhibits considerable homology to various members of the G protein-coupled receptor family. This fragment was used to isolate a full-length cDNA from a rat striatal library. A 2.2-kilobase clone was obtained that encodes a protein of 326 amino acids with seven transmembrane domains, as predicted by hydropathy analysis. Stably transfected mouse A9-L cells and Chinese hamster ovary cells that expressed mRNA for this clone were screened with putative receptor ligands. Saturable and specific binding sites for the A1 adenosine antagonist [3H]-1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine were identified on membranes from transfected cells. The rank order of potency and affinities of various adenosine agonist and antagonist ligands confirmed the identity of this cDNA clone as an A1 adenosine receptor. The high affinity binding of A1 adenosine agonists was shown to be sensitive to the nonhydrolyzable GTP analog guanylyl-5'-imidodiphosphate. In adenylyl cyclase assays, adenosine agonists inhibited forskolin-stimulated cAMP production by greater than 50%, in a pharmacologically specific fashion. Northern blot and in situ hybridization analyses of receptor mRNA in brain tissues revealed two transcripts of 5.6 and 3.1 kilobases, both of which were abundant in cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, and thalamus, with lower levels in olfactory bulb, striatum, mesencephalon, and retina. These regional distribution data are in good agreement with previous receptor autoradiographic studies involving the A1 adenosine receptor. We conclude that we have cloned a cDNA encoding an A1 adenosine receptor linked to the inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity.