The natriuretic peptides are hormones that can stimulate natriuretic, diuretic, and vasorelaxant activity in vivo, presumably through the activation of two known cell surface receptor guanylyl cyclases (ANPR-A and ANPR-B). Although atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and, to a lesser extent, brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) are efficient activators of the ANPR-A guanylyl cyclase, neither hormone can significantly stimulate ANPR-B. A member of this hormone family, C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), potently and selectively activated the human ANPR-B guanylyl cyclase. CNP does not increase guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate accumulation in cells expressing human ANPR-A. The affinity of CNP for ANPR-B is 50- or 500-fold higher than ANP or BNP, respectively. This ligand-receptor pair may be involved in the regulation of fluid homeostasis by the central nervous system.