Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), urocortin, sauvagine and urotensin I form the CRF family. These peptides bind with different affinities to two subtypes of CRF receptor (CRFR), CRFR1 and CRFR2. The latter exists as two splice variants, the neuronal CRFR2a and the peripheral CRFR2b. CRFR is a G protein-dependent receptor which acts mainly through Gs enhancing cAMP production. However, CRFR1 expressed in neutrophils of the spleen in response to immunologic stimulation and psychological stress does not seem to function through Gs, as indicated by the inability of CRF to stimulate the cAMP production of CRFR1+ neutrophils. Besides the two receptors, a 37 kD CRF binding protein (CRF-BP) binds several CRF peptides with high affinity. CRFR and CRF-BP do not share a common amino acid sequence representing the ligand binding site. In view of the unusually slow offrate of CRF-BP, it is proposed that CRF-BP provides an efficient uptake of free extracellular CRF. Thus, the time of exposure of CRFR to CRF or urocortin can be limited. At this time, the fate of the ligand CRF-BP complex is unclear. CRFR1 is not only involved in the hypophyseal stimulation of corticotropin release, but hippocampal CRFR1 mediates enhancement of stress-induced learning. CRFR1 may also be involved in basic anxiety. In contrast, at least in the mouse, CRFR2 of the lateral intermediate septum mediates tonic impairment of learning. In response to stressful stimuli or after local injection of high CRF doses, CRFR2 mediates anxiety. Effects requiring CRFR2 can be blocked specifically by the recently developed peptidic antagonist antisauvagine-30.