Gonadotropin-releasing hormone acts via cell surface receptors but most human (h) GnRH receptors (GnRHRs) are intracellular. A membrane-permeant nonpeptide antagonist [(2S)-2-[ 5-[2-(2-axabicyclo[2.2.2]oct-2-yl)-1,1-dimethy-2-oxoethyl]-2-(3,5-dimethylphenyl)-1H-indol-3-yl]N-( 2-pyridin-4-ylethyl)propan-1-amine (IN3)] increases hGnRHR expression at the surface, apparently by facilitating its exit from the endoplasmic reticulum. Here we have quantified GnRHR by automated imaging in HeLa cells transduced with adenovirus expressing hemagglutinin-tagged GnRHR. Consistent with an intracellular site of action, IN3 increases cell surface hGnRHR, and this effect is not blocked or mimicked by membrane-impermeant peptide antagonists [Ac-D2Nal-D4Cpa- D3Pal-Ser-Tyr-D-Cit-Leu-Arg-Pro-D-Ala-NH2 (cetrorelix) and antide]. However, when the C-terminal tail of a Xenopus (X) GnRHR was added (h. XGnRHR) to increase expression, both peptides further increased cell surface GnRHR. Cetrorelix also synergized with IN3 to increase expression of hGnRHR and a G-protein coupling-deficient mutant (A261K-hGnRHR). Cetrorelix also increased cell surface expression of hGnRHR, h. XGnRHR, and mouse GnRHR in gonadotrope-lineage L beta T2 cells, and in HeLa cells it slowed h. XGnRHR internalization (measured by receptor-mediated antihemagglutinin uptake). Thus cetrorelix has effects other than GnRHR blockade; it acts as an inverse agonist in internalization assays, supporting the potential importance of ligand-biased efficacy at GnRHR. We also developed an imaging assay for GnRH function based on Ca2+-dependent nuclear translocation of a nuclear factor of activated T cells reporter. Using this in HeLa and L beta T2 cells, IN3 and cetrorelix behaved as competitive antagonists when coincubated with GnRH, and long-term pretreatment (16 h) with IN3 reduced its effectiveness as an inhibitor whereas pretreatment with cetrorelix increased its inhibitory effect. This distinction between peptide and nonpeptide antagonists may prove important for therapeutic applications of GnRH antagonists.