Evidence indicates that a single membrane receptor subtype may be responsible for the generation of multiple intracellular signals, but mechanisms allowing for the selection of a specific effector pathway have not yet been documented. In neurons and other cells, the stimulation of dopamine D2 receptors produces, via G-protein activation, a spectrum of intracellular responses including inhibition of adenylyl cyclase activity, modulation of K+ currents, and potentiation of Ca(2+)-evoked arachidonic acid (AA) release. In this study, we report that, in Chinese hamster ovary cells, stimulation of protein kinase C (PKC) directs the preferential coupling of transfected D2 receptors from inhibition of adenylyl cyclase to potentiation of AA release, two responses mediated by Gi. The switch between these two signaling systems is accompanied by marked changes in their GTP sensitivities, indicating that it may result from the phosphorylation of component(s) of the receptor-Gi-protein complex. Brain PKC activity is enhanced by neurotransmitters and by neuronal depolarization. Thus, the ability of this protein kinase to remodel signaling pathways at the D2 receptor may regulate these Gi-mediated responses in an activity- dependent manner, and represent a novel form of synaptic plasticity.