The beta 2-adrenergic receptors of the human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells reside on two polypeptide chains revealed by photoaffinity labelling with [125I]iodocyanopindolol-diazirine. These proteins correspond to two distinct populations of N-asparagine-linked glycoproteins: the 55-52 kDa molecules are associated with complex carbohydrate chain(s), the 65-63 kDa component with polymannosidic carbohydrate chain(s). Both types of receptors are present in preconfluent cells, but only the polymannosidic type is found in the postconfluent cells. Moreover, complex chains appear to be associated with the receptors with the highest affinity for (-)-isoproterenol and polymannosidic chains with the receptors with the lowest affinity for this agonist. the carbohydrate moiety of the beta-adrenergic receptor is involved in the expression and function of the beta 2-adrenergic receptors at the surface of the A431 cells, since tunicamycin and monensin, complete and partial inhibitors of glycosylation respectively, diminish the number of binding sites at the cell surface and increase the total number of sites in the cell. In these conditions a diminution of cyclic AMP accumulation is also observed.