A full-length clone of the growth hormone receptor (GHR) was isolated from a cDNA library constructed from the liver of black seabream (Acanthopagrus schlegeli). The seabream GHR (sbGHR) cDNA sequence encodes a transmembrane protein of 640 amino acids (aa) possessing the characteristic motifs and architectural design of GHRs of other species. When compared to the other fish GHRs, it is most homologous to another marine fish species, the turbot, where the aa identity is 79.3%. But the sbGHR sequence is more remotely related to the goldfish GHR (51.6% aa identity) and the salmonid GHRs (approximately 46-48% aa identities). Phylogenetic comparison with other known GHRs indicates that the fish GHRs constitute a distinct group among the different vertebrate classes. The aa identities between sbGHR and other GHRs are low, being around 40% with mammalian GHRs, around 45% with avian and reptilian GHRs, and less than 35% with Xenopus GHR. CHO cells transfected with the sbGHR cDNA can be stimulated to proliferate by recombinant seabream growth hormone (sbGH). In addition, the transfected cells can transactivate a co-expressed mammalian serine protease inhibitor (Spi) 2.1 promoter upon stimulation by sbGH. These functional assays indicated that the fish receptor can interact with its homologous ligand to evoke the downstream post-receptor events. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and genomic PCR using a pair of gene-specific primers revealed the expression of two alternatively spliced forms of sbGHR in various tissues of the fish. A 93-bp intron, unique to the sbGHR gene and not found in any other known GHR genes, is alternatively spliced to give rise to two forms of receptor mRNA transcripts. The two forms of the receptor are differentially expressed among the different tissues of the fish.