Truncated forms of glucagon-like peptide-1 are the most potent endogenous stimuli of insulin secretion and have powerful antidiabetogenic effects. To determine the structure and coupling mechanisms of the human GLP-1 receptor we have isolated two pancreatic islet cDNAs, encoding the 463 amino acid receptor and differing mainly in their 3' untranslated regions. The deduced amino acid sequence is 90% homologous with the rat GLP-1 receptor. Northern blot analysis shows expression of a single 2.7 kb transcript in pancreatic tissue. When expressed in COS-7 cells the recombinant receptor conferred specific, high affinity GLP-1(7-37) binding. GLP-1(7-37) increased intracellular cAMP in a concentration dependent manner and caused an increase in the free cytosolic calcium ([Ca2+]i) from an intracellular pool, characteristic of phospholipase C (PLC) activation. Thus, like the structurally related glucagon and parathyroid hormone receptors, the human GLP-1 receptor can activate multiple intracellular signaling pathways including adenylyl cyclase and PLC. Knowledge of the GLP-1 receptor structure will facilitate the development of receptor agonists and elucidation of the important role of GLP-1 in normal physiology and disease states.