The two forms of pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP-27 and -38) are neuropeptides of the secretin/glucagon/vasoactive intestinal polypeptide/growth-hormone-releasing hormone family and regulate hormone release from the pituitary and adrenal gland. They may also be involved in spermatogenesis, and PACAP-38 potently stimulates neuritogenesis and survival of cultured rat sympathetic neuroblast and promotes neurite outgrowth of PC-12 cells. The PACAP type-I receptor (found in hypothalamus, brain stem, pituitary, adrenal gland and testes), specific for PACAP, is positively coupled to adenylyl cyclase and phospholipase C. The recently cloned type II receptor does not discriminate between PACAP and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and is coupled to only adenylyl cyclase. Here we have used a new expression cloning strategy, based on the induction of a reporter gene by cyclic AMP, to isolate a complementary DNA encoding the type-I PACAP receptor. On transfection of this cDNA, both PACAP-27 and -38 stimulate adenylyl cyclase with similar EC50 values (50% effective concentration, 0.1-0.4 nM), whereas only PACAP-38 stimulates phospholipase C with high potency (EC50 = 15 nM). Four other splice variants were isolated with insertions at the C-terminal end of the third intracellular loop. Expression of these cDNAs revealed altered patterns of adenylyl cyclase and phospholipase C stimulation, suggesting a novel mechanism for fine tuning of signal transduction.