Mice lacking the mu-opioid receptor gene have been developed by a gene knockout procedure. In this study, the activity of opioid receptor coupled G-proteins was examined to investigate whether there is a change in the extent of coupling for mu, delta-, and kappa-opioid receptors in mu-opioid receptor knockout mice. Selective agonists of mu- (DAMGO), delta- (DPDPE), and kappa- (U-69,593) opioid receptors stimulated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding in the caudate putamen and cortex of wild-type mice. In contrast, only U-69,593 stimulated [(35)S]GTPgammaS binding in these regions of mu-opioid receptor knockout mice. These results confirmed the absence of G-protein activation by a mu-opioid receptor agonist in mu-opioid receptor knockout mice, and demonstrated that coupling of the kappa-opioid receptor to G-proteins is preserved in these mice. However, G-protein activation by the delta-opioid receptor agonist, DPDPE, was reduced in the mu-opioid receptor knockout mice, at least in the brain regions studied using autoradiography.