Guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (G proteins) are key components in membrane signal transduction that may play an important role in testis function. The present study is the first description of cell-specific differences in the contents of G protein alpha-subunits and their mRNAs in isolated rat testicular cells (pachytene spermatocytes, round spermatids, Sertoli cells, peritubular cells). By using Western blot techniques G1-3 alpha was shown to be the only pertussis toxin (PTX) substrate present in all the testicular cells examined. Surprisingly, we observed a lack of immunoreactive Gi-1 alpha/Gi-2 alpha protein in pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids in spite of significant levels of the corresponding mRNAs as revealed by Northern analysis. No immunoreactive Gs alpha was detected in germ cells, in agreement with previous findings that the hormone-sensitive adenylyl cyclase is absent in these cell types. Peritubular cells and Sertoli cells contained no Go alpha, whereas high levels of both immunoreactive protein and mRNA were found in pachytene spermatocytes. This indicates that the Go protein may play a role at this stage of spermatogenesis. The stimulation of phospholipase C (PLC) in germ cell membranes by 5'-guanylyl imidophosphate indicates that PTX-sensitive PLC activation may be mediated by Go alpha or Gi-3 alpha.