Semicarbazide-sensitive amine oxidase (SSAO) (E.C. 220.127.116.11) is a group of enzymes with as yet poorly understood function which is widely present in nature. The variation in methodology for determination of activity, differences in substrates used and in nomenclature have made it difficult to compare SSAO in different species and tissues. Since SSAO is implicated in the pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus and congestive heart failure, our aim was to analyse the importance and abundance of SSAO in human plasma and tissues compared to other mammals. In plasma of ten different mammals, Vmax values were found to vary more than 10,000-fold, while KM differed much less; in human plasma SSAO activity is relatively low. In some species more than one SSAO entity was present in plasma. SSAO activity was ubiquitous in tissues of human, rat and pig, but varied considerably, both between species and between tissues. In human tissues, SSAO activity is higher than in tissues from rat and pig. Relative to monoamine oxidase-B there is also wide variation in SSAO, with much higher relative activities in human than in rat and pig tissues. We conclude that in plasma, SSAO activity is highest in ruminants, while in tissues, SSAO activity is more prominently present in human than in rat and pig.