A novel screening assay for the identification of baculovirus infected cells expressing membrane receptors was developed by using a replica transfer technique. Sf9 cells were cotransfected with wild type baculoviral DNA and the transfer vector pVL941-beta 1 containing the coding region of the human beta 1-adrenergic receptor gene. Infected cells embedded in agarose were incubated with [125I]-iodocyanopindolol and transferred onto filters that were subsequently autoradiographed. This procedure resulted in the isolation of recombinant baculoviruses that expressed beta 1-adrenergic receptors. Binding assays carried out with [125I]-ICYP indicated that more than 600,000 receptors were expressed per cell, the highest level noted so far for this receptor in genetically engineered cells. Sf9 cells expressing the beta 1-AR were analysed by ligand binding, competition experiments, adenylyl cyclase stimulation and photoaffinity labeling. These cells express a homogenous population of receptors and display the known pharmacological properties of beta 1-AR in human tissues.