The idiotypic and antiidiotypic response to alprenolol, a beta-adrenergic antagonist, was studied both in rabbits and in mice. Rabbit polyclonal anti-alprenolol antibodies showed binding properties for catecholamine analogs, agonists as well as antagonists, similar to those of the beta-adrenergic receptors. The variability of the anti-alprenolol response was studied by using mouse monoclonal antibodies specific for alprenolol. While the binding properties showed great variations in affinity, the response seemed restricted to the heavy chain classes gamma 1 and gamma 2a. N-terminal sequencing of the light and heavy chains and restriction maps of the corresponding genes suggest that the antibodies use particular subgroups infrequently found in antibodies specific for other antigens. The cyclical antiidiotypic response in rabbits immunized with polyclonal antibodies and in mice immunized with monoclonal antibodies were compared. The response of the latter was dependent on the choice of the monoclonal antibody used to elicit the antiidiotypic response. Finally, the agonist-like properties of a monoclonal antiidiotypic antibody directed against one of the monoclonal anti-alprenolol antibodies were studied extensively. The ability to recognize beta-adrenergic receptors was documented by Western blot and direct immunoprecipitation and visualized by immunofluorescence. The antiidiotypic antibody stimulated catecholamine-sensitive adenylate cyclase and this effect was blocked by the beta-adrenergic antagonist propranolol.