The effect of activation of the alpha-subunit(s) of the stimulatory guanine-nucleotide-binding protein, Gs, on levels of this polypeptide(s) associated with the plasma membrane of L6 skeletal myoblasts was ascertained. Incubation of these cells with cholera toxin led to a time- and concentration-dependent 'down-regulation' of both 44 and 42 kDa forms of Gs alpha as assessed by immunoblotting with an anti-peptide antiserum (CS1) able to identify the extreme C-terminus of Gs. The effect of cholera toxin was specific for Gs; levels of Gi alpha in membranes of cholera toxin-treated cells were not different from untreated cells. Down-regulation of Gs was absolutely dependent upon prior ADP-ribosylation, and hence activation of Gs and was not mimicked by other agents which elevate intracellular levels of cyclic AMP. Pretreatment with pertussis toxin, which catalyses ADP-ribosylation of Gi but not of Gs, did not down-regulate either Gi or Gs, demonstrating that covalent modification by ADP-ribosylation is alone not a signal for removal of G-proteins from the plasma membrane.