The affinities of D3 dopamine receptors for antagonists are similar to those of D2 receptors. D3 receptors have been reported, however, to have affinities nearly 100-fold higher than those of D2 receptors for some agonists, including (+/-)-7-hydroxy-n,n-dipropyl-aminotetralin (7-OH-DPAT) and quinpirole. This has led to the use of these agonists to try to identify functional responses mediated by D3 receptors in vivo. However, D2 receptors exist in multiple states having high and low affinities for agonists. The G protein-coupled state of D2 receptors is believed to be the functional state of these receptors. When receptors were labeled with the D2 receptor antagonist [125I]-(S)-3-iodo-N-[(1-ethyl-2-pyrrolidinyl)methyl]-5,6- dimethoxysalicylamide ([125I]-NCQ-298) under conditions that promote uncoupling of receptors from G proteins, the affinities of D3 receptors were approximately 130-fold higher than those of D2 receptors for 7-OH-DPAT and quinpirole. When receptors were labeled with the D2 receptor agonist [125I]-(R)trans-7-hydroxy-2-[N-propyl-N-(3'-iodo-2'- propenyl)-amino]tetralin ([125I]-7-OH-PIPAT) under conditions that favor interactions of receptors with G proteins, the affinities of D3 receptors were less than sevenfold higher than the affinities of D2 receptors for the same drugs. Similarly, small differences in the affinities of D2 and D3 receptors for other agonists were seen when receptors were labeled with [125I]-7-OH-PIPAT. These data demonstrate that putative D3 receptor-selective agonists also interact with a high-affinity, G protein-coupled state of D2 receptors. The similarities in affinities of the agonist-preferring state of D2 and D3 receptors means that currently available agonists cannot be used to discriminate between behavioral effects mediated by D2 and D3 receptors.