The roles of three protein kinases, cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase A), protein kinase C, and beta-adrenergic receptor kinase (beta ARK), implicated in agonist-induced desensitization of guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G-protein)-coupled receptors were explored in four different cell lines after 48 hr of incubation with oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to the mRNA encoding each kinase. Desensitization of beta 2-adrenergic receptors was analyzed in cell types in which the activities of the endogenous complement of protein kinases A and C and beta ARK were distinctly different. Protein kinase A was necessary for desensitization of rat osteosarcoma cells (ROS 17/2.8), whereas the contribution of beta ARK to desensitization was insignificant. In Chinese hamster ovary cells that stably express beta 2-adrenergic receptors and in smooth muscle cells (DDT1MF-2), oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to beta ARK mRNA nearly abolished desensitization, whereas oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to protein kinase A mRNA attenuated desensitization to a lesser extent. In human epidermoid carcinoma cells (A-431), oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to either protein kinase A mRNA or beta ARK mRNA attenuated agonist-induced desensitization, providing a third scenario in which two kinases constitute the basis for agonist-induced desensitization. In sharp contrast, oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to protein kinase C mRNA were found to enhance rather than attenuate desensitization in DDT1MF-2 and A-431 cell lines, demonstrating counterregulation between prominent protein kinases in desensitization. Using antisense oligodeoxynucleotides to "knock out" target protein kinases in vivo, we reveal distinctive cell-type-specific roles of protein kinase A, protein kinase C, and beta ARK in agonist-induced desensitization.