Using a polymerase chain reaction approach, we have studied the expression of somatostatin receptor (SSTR) subtypes in the GH3 rat pituitary cell line, a well established in vitro model for the cellular effects of somatostatin. We found that the previously identified SSTR1 and SSTR2 are the major subtypes expressed in this cell line. No other SSTR subtype was detected by our analysis. Northern blots confirmed that both subtypes, but not SSTR3, are expressed in GH3 cells. We studied the functional expression of both SSTR subtypes by transfection of their cDNAs into human embryonic kidney 293 cells. We found that somatostatin inhibited cAMP accumulation in human embryonic kidney 293 cells only when cells were transfected with either SSTR1 or SSTR2. This inhibition was blocked by treatment of the transfected cells with pertussis toxin, demonstrating that it is mediated by G proteins sensitive to this toxin. In addition, we provide pharmacological evidence that the endogenous SSTR2 subtype mediates inhibition of cAMP accumulation in intact GH3 cells. Our results contradict previous reports that concluded that neither SSTR1 nor SSTR2 is involved in inhibition of adenylyl cyclase. The reasons for this apparent contradiction are discussed. We conclude that both SSTR1 and SSTR2 are capable of coupling to pertussis toxin-sensitive G proteins to inhibit adenylyl cyclase.