Site-directed mutagenesis and molecular dynamics simulations of the alpha 1B-adrenergic receptor (AR) were combined to explore the potential molecular changes correlated with the transition from R (inactive state) to R (active state). Using molecular dynamics analysis we compared the structural/dynamic features of constitutively active mutants with those of the wild type and of an inactive alpha 1B-AR to build a theoretical model which defines the essential features of R and R. The results of site-directed mutagenesis were in striking agreement with the predictions of the model supporting the following hypothesis. (i) The equilibrium between R and R depends on the equilibrium between the deprotonated and protonated forms, respectively, of D142 of the DRY motif. In fact, replacement of D142 with alanine confers high constitutive activity to the alpha 1B-AR. (ii) The shift of R143 of the DRY sequence out of a conserved 'polar pocket' formed by N63, D91, N344 and Y348 is a feature common to all the active structures, suggesting that the role of R143 is fundamental for mediating receptor activation. Disruption of these intramolecular interactions by replacing N63 with alanine constitutively activates the alpha 1B-AR. Our findings might provide interesting generalities about the activation process of G protein-coupled receptors.