The adrenergic receptors (ARs) (subtypes alpha 1, alpha 2, beta 1, and beta 2) are a prototypic family of guanine nucleotide binding regulatory protein-coupled receptors that mediate the physiological effects of the hormone epinephrine and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. We have previously assigned the genes for beta 2- and alpha 2-AR to human chromosomes 5 and 10, respectively. By Southern analysis of somatic cell hybrids and in situ chromosomal hybridization, we have now mapped the alpha 1-AR gene to chromosome 5q32----q34, the same position as beta 2-AR, and the beta 1-AR gene to chromosome 10q24----q26, the region where alpha 2-AR is located. In mouse, both alpha 2- and beta 1-AR genes were assigned to chromosome 19, and the alpha 1-AR locus was localized to chromosome 11. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis has shown that the alpha 1- and beta 2-AR genes in humans are within 300 kilobases (kb) and the distance between the alpha 2- and beta 1-AR genes is less than 225 kb. The proximity of these two pairs of AR genes and the sequence similarity that exists among all the ARs strongly suggest that they are evolutionarily related. Moreover, they likely arose from a common ancestral receptor gene and subsequently diverged through gene duplication and chromosomal duplication to perform their distinctive roles in mediating the physiological effects of catecholamines. The AR genes thus provide a paradigm for understanding the evolution of such structurally conserved yet functionally divergent families of receptor molecules.