Growth hormone receptor (GHR)-mediated activity of ruminant placental lactogens (PLs) and ovine (o) GH was compared, using cells transfected with full size human (h), rabbit (rb), and oGHRs. All three PLs acted as agonists in heterologous bioassays, whereas in homologous bioassays in cells transfected with oGHRs they antagonized the oGH activity. Despite these differences, oGH and PLs bound with similar affinity to the oGHR extracellular domain (oGHR-ECD), indicating that the binding occurs through hormone site I. Gel filtration of complexes between oPL and oGHR-ECD showed a 1:1 stoichiometry, confirming this conclusion. The oPL T185D and bPL T188D, which exhibited weak biological activity mediated through GHRs, behaved as site I antagonists, whereas oPL G130R and bPL G133R formed a 1:1 complex with GHR-ECDs and bound to h/rb/oGHR-ECDs with affinity similar to that of wild- type oPL. They had no agonistic activity in all models transfected with h/rb and oGHRs, but were antagonistic to all of them. In conclusion, ruminant PLs antagonize the activity of oGH in homologous systems, because they cannot homodimerize oGHRs, whereas in heterologous systems they act as agonists. The structural analysis hints that minor differences in the sequence of the GHR- ECDs may account for this difference. Since the initial step in the activity transduced through cytokine/hemapoietic receptors family is receptor homodimerization or heterodimerization, we suggest that the question of homologous versus heterologous interactions should be reexamined.