Neurotransmitter receptor coupling to adenylate cyclase (AC) was studied in the cultured human neuroblastoma SK-N-MC cell line. Activation of beta-adrenoceptors with isoprenaline (ISO) or vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) receptors, increased AC activity in a dose-dependent manner. Preincubation with ISO and VIP induced a ligand specific, i.e. homologous type of desensitization of the respective receptor. Neuropeptide tyrosine (NPY) was able to inhibit ISO as well as VIP induced AC activity. The effect of NPY was totally abolished in cells pretreated with pertussis toxin to inactivate inhibitory G-proteins. Thus, SK-N-MC cells possess functionally coupled beta-adrenoceptors, VIP and NPY receptors, and may be used to study interactions between ligands and receptors which couple to the AC system.