The abundance of a histidine residue at position 185 (His(185)) of the human corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) type 2 alpha receptor (hCRF(2alpha)) was investigated. His(185) has only been reported in hCRF(2); CRF(2) proteins from other species and all CRF(1) receptors encode an arginine (Arg(185)) at the corresponding position. Cloning of partial and full-length hCRF(2) cDNAs from a variety of neuronal and peripheral tissues revealed the existence of receptor molecules encoding Arg(185) only. Sequence analysis of the hCRF(2) gene verified the existence of Arg(185) also on genomic level. Full-length cDNAs encoding either the His(185) (R2H(185)) or the Arg(185) (R2R(185)) variants of hCRF(2alpha) were stably expressed in HEK293 cells and tested for ligand binding properties. In displacement studies R2H(185) and R2R(185) displayed a similar substrate specificity, human and rat urocortin, and the peptide antagonists astressin and alpha-helical CRF((9-41)) were bound with high affinity whereas human and ovine CRF were low-affinity ligands. Significant differences were observed for sauvagine and urotensin I, which bound with 3-fold (sauvagine) and 9-fold (urotensin I) higher affinity to R2R(185). These data indicate that hCRF(2), like all vertebrate CRF(1) and CRF(2) proteins encodes an arginine residue at the junction between extracellular domain 2 and transmembrane domain 3 and that this amino acid plays a role for the discrimination of some CRF peptide ligands.