Dopamine D2 receptor (D2-receptor) expression and its coupling to Gi sensitive adenylate cyclase was investigated in human neuroblastoma SHSY-5Y cells. Incubation of SHSY-5Y cells in the presence of 100 nM retinoic acid (RA) for 24 hours resulted in phenotypic differentiation accompanied by a 47% increase in D2-receptor mRNA and a significant increase in the specific binding of a D2-receptor antagonist, [3H]YM09151-2. Stimulation of D2-receptors in differentiated cells by LY171-555, a D2-agonist, attenuated cellular cAMP levels by 30%. The effect of LY171-555 on cAMP levels was blocked by the D2-antagonist, (-)sulpride. Application of these drugs to control undifferentiated cells or differentiated cells incubated with vehicle only had no effect on cellular cAMP levels. These studies suggest that differentiated SHSY-5Y cells express functional D2-receptors and will provide a useful model for future studies on the regulation of expression and function of D2-receptors in cellular differentiation of neuronal cells.