The expression of GTP-binding regulatory proteins (G proteins) in retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells was analyzed by RNA blot hybridization and cDNA amplification. Both adult and fetal human RPE cells contain mRNA for multiple G protein alpha subunits (G alpha) including Gs alpha, Gi-1 alpha, Gi-2 alpha, Gi-3 alpha, and Gz alpha (or Gx alpha), where Gs and Gi are proteins that stimulate or inhibit adenylyl cyclase, respectively, and Gz is a protein that may mediate pertussis toxin-insensitive events. Other G alpha-related mRNA transcripts were detected in fetal RPE cells by low-stringency hybridization to Gi-2 alpha and Gs alpha protein-coding cDNA probes. The diversity of G proteins in RPE cells was further studied by cDNA amplification with reverse transcriptase and the polymerase chain reaction. This approach revealed that, besides the above mentioned members of the G alpha gene family, at least two other G alpha subunits are expressed in RPE cells. Human retinal cDNA clones that encode one of the additional G alpha subunits were isolated and characterized. The results indicate that this G alpha subunit belongs to a separate subfamily of G proteins that may be insensitive to inhibition by pertussis toxin.