Based on the kinetics of interaction between a receptor and G-protein, a myriad of possibilities may result. Two extreme cases are represented by: 1/Collision coupling, where an agonist binds to the free receptor and then the agonist-receptor complex "collides" with the free G-protein. 2/Pre-coupling, where stable receptor/G-protein complexes exist in the absence of agonist. Pre-coupling plays an important role in the kinetics of signal transduction. Odd-numbered muscarinic acetylcholine receptors preferentially couple to G q/11, while even-numbered receptors prefer coupling to G i/o. We analyzed the coupling status of the various subtypes of muscarinic receptors with preferential and non-preferential G-proteins. The magnitude of receptor-G-protein coupling was determined by the proportion of receptors existing in the agonist high-affinity binding conformation. Antibodies directed against the C-terminus of the α-subunits of the individual G-proteins were used to interfere with receptor-G-protein coupling. Effects of mutations and expression level on receptor-G-protein coupling were also investigated. Tested agonists displayed biphasic competition curves with the antagonist [ 3H]-N-methylscopolamine. Antibodies directed against the C-terminus of the α-subunits of the preferential G-protein decreased the proportion of high-affinity sites, and mutations at the receptor-G-protein interface abolished agonist high-affinity binding. In contrast, mutations that prevent receptor activation had no effect. Expression level of preferential G-proteins had no effect on pre-coupling to non-preferential G-proteins. Our data show that all subtypes of muscarinic receptors pre-couple with their preferential classes of G-proteins, but only M 1 and M 3 receptors also pre-couple with non-preferential G i/o G-proteins. Pre-coupling is not dependent on agonist efficacy nor on receptor activation. The ultimate mode of coupling is therefore dictated by a combination of the receptor subtype and the class of G-protein.