We present a detailed histological description of the central nervous system (CNS: brain, subesophageal ganglion, thoracic ganglia, abdominal ganglia) of the blue crab, Portunus pelagicus. Because the presence of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in crustaceans has been disputed, we examine the presence and localization of a GnRH-like peptide in the CNS of the blue crab by using antibodies against lamprey GnRH (lGnRH)-III, octopus GnRH (octGnRH) and tunicate GnRH (tGnRH)-I. These antibodies showed no cross-reactivity with red-pigment-concentrating hormone, adipokinetic hormone, or corazonin. In the brain, strong lGnRH-III immunoreactivity (-ir) was detected in small (7-17 ?m diameter) neurons of clusters 8, 9 and 10, in medium-sized (21-36 ?m diameter) neurons of clusters 6, 7 and 11 and in the anterior and posterior median protocerebral neuropils, olfactory neuropil, median and lateral antenna I neuropils, tegumentary neuropil and antenna II neuropil. In the subesophageal ganglion, lGnRH-III-ir was detected in medium-sized neurons and in the subesophageal neuropil. In the thoracic and abdominal ganglia, lGnRH-III-ir was detected in medium-sized and small neurons and in the neuropils. OctGnRH-ir was observed in neurons of the same clusters with moderate staining, particularly in the deutocerebrum, whereas tGnRH-I-ir was only detected in medium-sized neurons of cluster 11 in the brain. Thus, anti-lGnRH-III shows greater immunoreactivity in the crab CNS than anti-octGnRH and anti-tGnRH-I. Moreover, our functional bioassay demonstrates that only lGnRH-III has significant stimulatory effects on ovarian growth and maturation. We therefore conclude that, although the true identity of the crab GnRH eludes us, crabs possess a putative GnRH hormone similar to lGnRH-III. The identification and characterization of this molecule is part of our ongoing research.