- The finding that molt-inhibiting hormone (MIH) regulates vitellogenesis in the hepatopancreas of mature Callinectes sapidus females, raised the need for the characterization of its mode of action. Using classical radioligand binding assays, we located specific, saturable, and non-cooperative binding sites for MIH in the Y-organs of juveniles (J-YO) and in the hepatopancreas of vitellogenic adult females. MIH binding to the hepatopancreas membranes had an affinity 77 times lower than that of juvenile YO membranes (KD values: 3.22 × 10-8 and 4.19 × 10-10 M/mg protein, respectively). The number of maximum binding sites (BMAX) was approximately two times higher in the hepatopancreas than in the YO (BMAX values: 9.24 × 10-9 and 4.8 × 10-9 M/mg protein, respectively). Furthermore, MIH binding site number in the hepatopancreas was dependent on ovarian stage and was twice as high at stage 3 than at stages 2 and 1. SDS-PAGE separation of [125I] MIH or [125I] crustacean hyperglycemic hormone (CHH) crosslinked to the specific binding sites in the membranes of the J-YO and hepatopancreas suggests a molecular weight of ~51 kDa for a MIH receptor in both tissues and a molecular weight of ~61 kDa for a CHH receptor in the hepatopancreas. The use of an in vitro incubation of hepatopancreas fragments suggests that MIH probably utilizes cAMP as a second messenger in this tissue, as cAMP levels increased in response to MIH. Additionally, 8-Bromo-cAMP mimicked the effects of MIH on vitellogenin (VtG) mRNA and heterogeneous nuclear (hn) VtG RNA levels. The results imply that the functions of MIH in the regulation of molt and vitellogenesis are mediated through tissue specific receptors with different kinetics and signal transduction. MIH ability to regulate vitellogenesis is associated with the appearance of MIH specific membrane binding sites in the hepatopancreas upon pubertal/final molt.