The proliferation of various tumors is inhibited by the antagonists of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) in vitro and in vivo, but the receptors mediating the effects of GHRH antagonists have not been identified so far. Using an approach based on PCR, we detected two major splice variants (SVs) of mRNA for human GHRH receptor (GHRH-R) in human cancer cell lines, including LNCaP prostatic, MiaPaCa-2 pancreatic, MDA-MB-468 breast, OV-1063 ovarian, and H-69 small-cell lung carcinomas. In addition, high-affinity, low-capacity binding sites for GHRH antagonists were found on the membranes of cancer cell lines such as MiaPaCa-2 that are negative for the vasoactive intestinal peptide/pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide receptor (VPAC-R) or lines such as LNCaP that are positive for VPAC-R. Sequence analysis of cDNAs revealed that the first three exons in SV(1) and SV(2) are replaced by a fragment of retained intron 3 having a new putative in-frame start codon. The rest of the coding region of SV(1) is identical to that of human pituitary GHRH-R, whereas in SV(2) exon 7 is spliced out, resulting in a 1-nt upstream frameshift, which leads to a premature stop codon in exon 8. The intronic sequence may encode a distinct 25-aa fragment of the N-terminal extracellular domain, which could serve as a proposed signal peptide. The continuation of the deduced protein sequence coded by exons 4-13 in SV(1) is identical to that of pituitary GHRH-R. SV(2) may encode a GHRH-R isoform truncated after the second transmembrane domain. Thus SVs of GHRH-Rs have now been identified in human extrapituitary cells. The findings support the view that distinct receptors are expressed on human cancer cells, which may mediate the antiproliferative effect of GHRH antagonists.