The full-length growth hormone receptor (GHR) of gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) was cloned and sequenced by RT-PCR and rapid amplification of 5'and 3'ends. The open reading frame codes for a mature 609 amino acid protein with a hydrophobic transmembrane region and all the characteristic motifs of GHRs. Sequence analysis revealed a 96 and 76% of amino acid identity with black sea bream (Acanthopagrus schlegeli) and turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) GHRs, respectively, but this amino acid identity decreases up to 52% for goldfish (Carassius auratus) GHR. By means of real-time PCR assays, concurrent changes in the hepatic expression of GHRs and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) was evidenced. Moreover, their regulation occurred in conjunction with the summer spurt of growth rates and circulating levels of GH and IGF-I. Search of alternative splicing was carried out exhaustively for gilthead sea bream GHR, but Northern blot and 3' RACE failed to demonstrate the occurrence of short alternative messengers. Besides, RT-PCR screening did not reveal deletions or insertions that could lead to alternative reading frames. In agreement with this, cross-linking assays only evidenced two protein bands that match well with the size of glycosylated and non-glycosylated forms of the full-length GHR. If so, it appears that alternative splicing at the 3'end does not occur in gilthead sea bream, although different messengers for truncated or longer GHR variants already exist in turbot and black sea bream, respectively. The physiological relevance of this finding remains unclear, but perhaps it points out large inter-species differences in the heterogeneity of the GHR population.