G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are physiologically important membrane proteins that sense signalling molecules such as hormones and neurotransmitters, and are the targets of several prescribed drugs. Recent exciting developments are providing unprecedented insights into the structure and function of several medically important GPCRs. Here, through a systematic analysis of high-resolution GPCR structures, we uncover a conserved network of non-covalent contacts that defines the GPCR fold. Furthermore, our comparative analysis reveals characteristic features of ligand binding and conformational changes during receptor activation. A holistic understanding that integrates molecular and systems biology of GPCRs holds promise for new therapeutics and personalized medicine.