The catecholamines were found to inhibit the binding of the alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonist, [3H]-clonidine, to the recombinant wild type alpha 2a-adrenoceptor (Table 1) with potencies that are consistent with their functional activity in alpha 2-adrenoceptor test systems [6,7]. Mutation of Ser165 to alanine had no significant effect (less than 2-fold) on the affinity of any of the catecholamines for the alpha 2a-adrenoceptor, and in particular, the ratios of affinities between the corresponding (-)- and (+)-enantiomers of the catecholamines were not altered by the point mutation at Ser165. These findings indicate clearly that Ser165, in contrast to predictions made by molecular modeling, plays little if any role in the binding of the catecholamines in general, and cannot be involved in the attachment of the beta-hydroxyl group to the alpha 2a-adrenoceptor. Mutation of either Ser90 on transmembrane helix II or Ser419 on transmembrane helix VII to alanine produced dramatic and selective reductions in the affinity of the (-)-enantiomers of the catecholamines for the alpha 2a-adrenoceptor, with no changes occurring in affinities of the (+)-enantiomers. Thus, the affinities of (-)-norepinephrine and (-)-epinephrine for the Ser90 and Ser419 mutants of the alpha 2a-adrenoceptor were 35-75 fold lower than their affinities for the wild type receptor (Table 1), suggesting that Ser90 and/or Ser419 are involved in the attachment of the beta-hydroxyl groups of the catecholamines to the receptor. Similarly, the affinity of (+/-)-6-fluoronorepinephrine was reduced by 100-fold for the Ser90 mutant receptor (Table 1). Importantly, the affinities of the (+)-enantiomers of the catecholamines, as well as dopamine and epinine, which are the corresponding analogs of norepinephrine and epinephrine which lack the beta-hydroxyl group, were not affected by mutation of Ser90 or Ser419 to alanine (Table 1). Asn293 in transmembrane helix VI has also been proposed to be involved in the interaction of the beta-hydroxyl group of isoproterenol with the beta 2-adrenoceptor . The alpha 2a-adrenoceptor contains three hydroxyl bearing amino acids at a position corresponding to this site (Thr393-Tyr394-Thr395). These amino acids could theoretically form a hydrogen bond with the beta-hydroxyl group of a catecholamine, and therefore could serve as a potential point of attachment. Simultaneous mutation of all three of these amino acids to Ala-Phe-Ala reduced the affinity of the (-)-enantiomers of the catecholamines by 12-20 fold, which is somewhat less than what was observed for mutation of either Ser90 or Ser419 (Table 1). However, in contrast to mutation of Ser90 or Ser419, which had no effect on the affinity of the (+)-enantiomers, mutation of the three residues in transmembrane helix VI did significantly reduce the affinities of the (+)-enantiomers of the catecholamines by approximately 5- to 9-fold, indicating that mutations at these points of the receptor are not selective for the (-)-enantiomers, and are therefore not likely to be involved in the attachment of the beta-hydroxyl group of the catecholamines.