The beta 1-adrenergic receptors of turkey erythrocyte membranes have been identified by binding of the radioactively labeled antagonist (--)-[3H]dihydroalprenolol, solubilized by treatment of the membranes with the detergent digitonin, and purified by affinity chromatography. Binding of (--)-[3H]dihydroalprenolol to the membranes occurred to a single class of non-cooperative binding sites (0.2--0.3 pmol/mg protein) with a equilibrium dissociation constant (Kd) of 8 (+/- 2) nM. These sites were identified as the functional, adenylate-cyclase-linked beta 1-adrenergic receptors on the basis of: firstly, the fast association and dissociation binding kinetics at 30 degrees C; secondly, the stereospecific displacement of bound (--)-[3H]dihydroalprenolol by beta-adrenergic agonists and antagonists; and thirdly, the order of potencies for agonists to displace bound tracer (isoproterenol congruent to protokylol greater than norepinephrine congruent to epinephrine) similar to the one found for adenylate cyclase activation, and typical for beta 1-adrenergic receptors. Treatment of the membranes with the detergent digitonin solubilized 30% of the receptors in an active form. Digitonin solubilized also adenylate cyclase activity with a yield of 20 to 30%, provided the membranes were first treated with an effector known to produce a persistent active state of the enzyme: e.g. sodium fluoride. Binding sites for guanine nucleotides ([3H]p[NH]ppG) were solubilized as well. Their concentration (24 pmol/mg protein) was in large excess over the concentration of solubilized receptors (0.30--0.45 pmol/mg protein). Solubilized receptors were purified 500--2000-fold by affinity chromatography with a 25 to 35% yield, using an alprenolol-agarose affinity matrix. Affinity purified receptors were devoid of measurable adenylate cyclase activity and guanine nucleotide binding sites, thus showing that receptors and adenylate cyclase are distinct membrane constituents, and that guanine nucleotides apparently do not bind directly to the receptor molecules. Membrane-bound, solubilized and purified receptors were sensitive to inactivation by dithiothreitol, but not by N-ethylmaleimide, suggesting that receptors are at least partly constituted of protein molecules, with essential disulfide bonds.