1. The agonist sensitivity of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in rat superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurones was compared with that of cloned receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes by pairwise injections of alpha 3-beta 2 or alpha 3-beta 4 neuronal nicotinic subunit combinations. 2. Agonist responses in rat SCG neurones indicated that cytisine was the most potent agonist and lobeline the least potent (rank order of potency: cytisine > dimethylphenylpiperazinium iodide (DMPP) > nicotine > ACh > carbachol > lobeline). 3. Receptors expressed in oocytes by injection of alpha 3 and beta 2 subunits had a relatively high sensitivity to DMPP and low sensitivity to cytisine (rank order of potency: DMPP > ACh > lobeline > carbachol > nicotine > cytisine), whereas receptors composed of alpha 3 and beta 4 subunits had a high sensitivity to cytisine and low sensitivity to DMPP (rank-order of potency: cytisine > nicotine approximately ACh > DMPP > carbachol > lobeline). 4. With the exception of responses to DMPP, agonist sensitivity measurements suggest that nicotinic receptors in the rat SCG are composed of alpha 3 and beta 4 subunits. The results are discussed in terms of the receptor subunit mRNAs known to be expressed in the rat SCG and previous evidence of functional heterogeneity of rat SCG nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.