The enzymological basis for the ability of mammalian liver to conjugate bile acids with both glycine and taurine, and for non-mammalian liver to make only taurine conjugates, was investigated. The taurine-conjugating enzyme has been purified 1200-fold from the liver of domestic fowl and its properties compared with those of the glycine/taurine-conjugating enzyme from bovine liver [Czuba & Vessey (1980) J. Biol. Chem. 255, 5296-5299]. The enzyme from both species followed a Ping Pong mechanism. The enzymes were also similar with respect to their affinity for taurine, although the enzyme from domestic fowl would not bind glycine. The affinity of both for cholyl-CoA was quite similar, too, and both enzymes were inhibited reversibly by p-mercuribenzoate. The enzymes, however, were quite different in size. The enzyme from domestic fowl had a mol.wt. of 63000-65000 by both gel filtration and sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis. This is approx. 15 000 mol.wt. units larger than the enzyme from bovine liver, and suggests a loss of genome over the course of evolution as the basis for the altered specificity at the amino-acid binding site.

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