The characterization of beta-adrenergic receptors on cultured human trabecular cells and trabecular meshwork from human autopsy eyes was carried out by radioligand binding utilizing (125I)-iodopindolol. In cultured cells, the observed binding of (125I)-iodopindolol was of high affinity (Kd = 43 pM) and saturable. Scatchard plots were linear and revealed a Bmax of 33 +/- 7 fmol/mg of protein. Competition studies with a series of agonists and antagonists revealed that human trabecular cells contain a single class of beta-adrenergic receptors of the beta 2 subtype. Similarly, the IC50 of ICI 89,406 (176 nM) in human trabecular meshwork from autopsy eyes supports the presence of beta 2-adrenergic receptors in this tissue.