Usual human livers contain two major aldehyde dehydrogenase [(ALDH) aldehyde:NAD+ oxidoreductase] isozymes--i.e., a cytosolic ALDH1 component and a mitochondrial ALDH2 component--whereas approximately equal to 50% of Orientals are "atypical" and have only the ALDH1 isozyme and are missing the ALDH2 isozyme. We previously demonstrated that atypical livers contain an enzymatically inactive but immunologically crossreactive material (CRM) corresponding to the ALDH2 component. The enzymatically active ALDH2 obtained from a usual liver and the CRM obtained from an atypical liver were reduced, S-carboxymethylated, and digested by trypsin. Separation of their digests by high-performance reverse-phase chromatography and by two-dimensional paper chromatography and electrophoresis revealed that ALDH2 contained a peptide sequence of -Glu-Leu-Gly-Glu-Ala-Gly-Leu-Gln-Ala-Asn-Val-Gln-Val-Lys- and that the glutamine adjacent to lysine was substituted by lysine in CRM. All other tryptic peptides, including eight peptides containing S-carboxymethylcysteine, were common in ALDH2 and CRM. It is concluded that a point mutation in the human ALDH2 locus produced the glutamine leads to lysine substitution and enzyme inactivation.