- Across the animal kingdom, the involvement of insulin-like peptide (ILP) signaling in sex-related differentiation processes is attracting increasing attention. Recently, a gender-specific ILP was identified as the androgenic sex hormone in Crustacea. However, moieties modulating the actions of this androgenic insulin-like growth factor were yet to be revealed. Through molecular screening of an androgenic gland (AG) cDNA library prepared from the crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus, we have identified a novel insulin-like growth factor-binding protein (IGFBP) termed Cq-IGFBP. Based on bioinformatic analyses, the deduced Cq-IGFBP was shown to share high sequence homology with IGFBP-family members from both invertebrates and vertebrates. The protein also includes a sequence determinant proven crucial for ligand binding, which, according to 3D modeling, is assigned to the exposed outer surface of the protein. Recombinant Cq-IGFBP (rCq-IGFBP) protein was produced and, using a 'pull-down' methodology, was shown to specifically interact with the insulin-like AG hormone of the crayfish (Cq-IAG). Particularly, using both mass spectral analysis and an immunological tool, rCq-IGFBP was shown to bind the Cq-IAG prohormone. Furthermore, a peptide corresponding to residues 23-38 of the Cq-IAG A-chain was found sufficient for in vitro recognition by rCq-IGFBP. Cq-IGFBP is the first IGFBP family member shown to specifically interact with a gender-specific ILP. Unlike their ILP ligands, IGFBPs are highly conserved across evolution, from ancient arthropods, like crustaceans, to humans. Such conservation places ILP signaling at the center of sex-related phenomena in early animal development.