Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) is a novel member of the secretin-glucagon peptide family. In mammals, this peptide has been located in a wide range of tissues and is involved in a variety of biological functions. In lower vertebrates, especially fish, increasing evidence suggests that PACAP may function as a hypophysiotropic factor regulating pituitary hormone secretion. PACAP has been identified in the brain-pituitary axis of representative fish species. The molecular structure of fish PACAP is highly homologous to mammalian PACAP. The prepro-PACAP in fish, however, is distinct from that of mammals as it also contains the sequence of fish GHRH. In teleosts, the anterior pituitary is under direct innervation of the hypothalamus and PACAP nerve fibers have been identified in the pars distalis. Using the goldfish as a fish model, mRNA transcripts of PACAP receptors, namely the PAC1 and VPACI receptors, have been identified in the pituitary as well as in various brain areas. Consistent with the pituitary expression of PACAP receptors, PACAP analogs are effective in stimulating growth hormone (GH) and gonadotropin (GTH)-II secretion in the goldfish both in vivo and in vitro. The GH-releasing action of PACAP is mediated via pituitary PAC1 receptors coupled to the adenylate cyclase-cAMP-protein kinase A and phospholipase C-IP3-protein kinase C pathways. Subsequent stimulation of Ca2+ entry through voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels followed by activation of Ca2+-calmodulin protein kinase II is likely the downstream mechanism mediating PACAP-stimulated GH release in goldfish. Although the PACAP receptor subtype(s) and the associated post-receptor signaling events responsible for PACAP-stimulated GTH-II release have not been characterized in goldfish, these findings support the hypothesis that PACAP is produced in the hypothalamus and delivered to the anterior pituitary to regulate GH and GTH-II release in fish.