Homologs of mammalian PTH1 and PTH2 receptors, and a novel PTH3 receptor have been identified in zebrafish (zPTH1, zPTH2, and zPTH3). zPTH1 receptor ligand specificity is similar to that of mammalian PTH1 receptors. The zPTH2 receptor is selective for PTH over PTH-related protein (PTHrP); however, PTH produces only modest cAMP accumulation. A PTH2 receptor-selective peptide, tuberoinfundibular peptide of 39 residues (TIP39), has recently been purified from bovine hypothalamus. The effect of TIP39 has not previously been examined on zebrafish receptors. The zPTH3 receptor was initially described as PTHrP selective based on comparison with the effects of human PTH. We have now examined the ligand specificity of the zebrafish PTH-recognizing receptors expressed in COS-7 cells using a wide range of ligands. TIP39 is a potent agonist for stimulation of cAMP accumulation at two putative splice variants of the zPTH2 receptor (EC50, 2.6 and 5.2 nM); in comparison, PTH is a partial agonist [maximal effect (Emax) of PTH peptides ranges from 28-49% of the TIP39 Emax]. As TIP39 is much more efficacious than any known PTH-like peptide, a homolog of TIP39 may be the zPTH2 receptor's endogenous ligand. At the zPTH3 receptor, rat PTH-(1-34) and rat PTH-(1-84) (EC50, 0.22 and 0.45 nM) are more potent than PTHrP (EC50, 1.5 nM), and rPTH-(1-34) binds with high affinity (3.2 nM). PTH has not been isolated from fish. PTHrP-like peptides, which have been identified in fish, may be the natural ligands for zPTH1 and zPTH3 receptors.