This main purpose of this study was to examine the subcellular distribution and isozyme characteristics of branchial carbonic anhydrase (CA) in Chaenocephalus aceratus, an Antarctic icefish that lacks erythrocytes. The Antarctic fish, Notothenia coriiceps, which possesses erythrocytes, was also studied for comparative purposes. The gills of both species were found to have measurable activity of CA. N. coriiceps also had normal levels of blood CA activity. In contrast, the icefish, C. aceratus, lacked blood CA activity, but was found to possess an endogenous plasma CA inhibitor. The large majority of branchial CA in the gills of these species was located in the cytoplasmic fraction whereas less than 3% was associated with the membrane fraction. In both species, CA from the cytoplasmic gill fraction and membrane fraction differed markedly in terms of their sensitivity to the plasma CA inhibitor from C. aceratus. In addition, treatment with the cleaving enzyme phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C indicated that CA from the branchial membrane fraction of both species is anchored to the membrane via a phosphatidylinositol-glycan linkage. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a CA IV-like isozyme in the gills of Antarctic fish. At present, the functional significance of this membrane-bound CA is unknown, but the relative amount of this isozyme appeared to be greater in the gills of C aceratus, the species that lacked erythrocytes.