Heterotrimeric G-proteins, composed of alpha and betagamma subunits, transmit signals from cell-surface receptors to cellular effectors and ion channels. Cellular responses to receptor agonists depend on not only the type and amount of G-protein subunits expressed but also the ratio of alpha and betagamma subunits. Thus far, little is known about how the amounts of alpha and betagamma subunits are coordinated. Targeted disruption of the alpha(o) gene leads to loss of both isoforms of alpha(o), the most abundant alpha subunit in the brain. We demonstrate that loss of alpha(o) protein in the brain is accompanied by a reduction of beta protein to 32+/-2% (n = 4) of wild type. Sucrose density gradient experiments show that all of the betagamma remaining in the brains of alpha(o)-/- mice sediments as a heterotrimer (s20,w = 4.4 S, n = 2), with no detectable free alpha or betagamma subunits. Thus, the level of the remaining betagamma subunits matches that of the remaining alpha subunits. Protein levels of alpha subunits other than alpha(o) are unchanged, suggesting that they are controlled independently. Coordination of betagamma to alpha occurs posttranscriptionally because the mRNA level of the predominant beta1 subtype in the brains of alpha(o)-/- mice was unchanged. Adenylyl cyclase can be positively or negatively regulated by betagamma. Because the level of other alpha subunits is unchanged and alpha(o) itself has little or no effect on adenylyl cyclase, we could examine how a large change in the level of betagamma affects this enzyme. Surprisingly, we could not detect any difference in the adenylyl cyclase activity between brain membranes from wild-type and alpha(o)-/- mice. We propose that alpha(o) and its associated betagamma are sequestered in a distinct pool of membranes that does not contribute to the regulation of adenylyl cyclase.