Using degenerative primers, partial cDNAs of a TNF (tumor necrosis factor) receptor and two TNF ligands were obtained by PCR of zebrafish and trout cDNAs, or cDNA libraries. These fragments were then used to screen cDNA libraries of appropriate tissues to obtain clones containing full coding sequences. A zebrafish cDNA was obtained that presumably codes for a 438 amino acid ovarian TNF receptor (OTR) that was identified as a death-domain-containing member of the TNF receptor family. On Northern blots, the OTR cDNA hybridized with a 3.4-kb transcript that is abundant in the zebrafish ovary but lightly detected in all other tissues tested. A zebrafish cDNA presumably coding for a 214 amino acid protein with sequence similarity to mammalian TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand), was also isolated. In addition, a fragment of the brook trout TRAIL homologue was obtained. Finally, a full-length brook trout cDNA, that presumably codes for a 255 amino acid protein with sequence similarity to mammalian TNF-alpha and lymphotoxin-alpha, was isolated. This study is the first report of a death-domain-containing TNF receptor and the first published report of a TNF ligand in fish.