Three NADP-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase isozymes in the teleost, Fundulus heteroclitus (L.), exhibit differences in tissue and subcellular distribution. These three proteins were purified and characterized as to native and subunit molecular weight, isoelectric pH, susceptibility to thermal denaturation, and certain kinetic parameters (Km and Vmax) for the oxidative decarboxylation of isocitrate at 25 degrees C and pH 7.4. The enzymes are dimers of 90 +/- 4 kDa with subunit molecular masses of 45 +/- 3 kDa. Isoelectric pH values were 7.00, 5.19, and 5.29 for IDH-A2, IDH-B2 and IDH-C2 (where IDH represents isocitrate dehydrogenase), respectively. While the monomer-dimer equilibrium is not influenced by substrates, the equilibrium appears to respond to buffer concentration and temperature. Enzyme activity is not affected upon dilution in the presence of buffer containing bovine serum albumin, however, its activity declines rapidly in the absence of bovine serum albumin. Thermal stability varies among the isozymes, and they do not denature by a simple first-order process. The presence of substrates, metal, and coenzymes independently provided enzyme stability, suggesting a random mechanism of substrate and cofactor binding. While IDH-A2 and IDH-B2 have identical KISOCm, IDH-B2 has a lower KNADPm. The most common mitochondrial isozyme (IDH-C2) has a greater KISOCm than either the less common mitochondrial isozyme (IDH-A2) or the cytoplasmic enzyme (IDH-B2). The KNADPm for IDH-C2 was the same as that of IDH-A2 but greater than that of IDH-B2. These Km differences are consistent with the cytoplasmic-mitochondrial shuttling of NADPH-reducing equivalents into the cytoplasm.