Using a redox-inert methyl acceptor, we show that betaine-homocysteine S-methyltransferase (BHMT) requires a thiol reducing agent for activity. Short-term exposure of BHMT to reducing agent-free buffer inactivates the enzyme without causing any loss of its catalytic zinc. Activity can be completely restored by the re-addition of a thiol reducing agent. The catalytic zinc of BHMT is bound by three thiolates and one hydroxyl group. Thiol modification experiments indicate that a disulfide bond is formed between two of the three zinc-binding ligands when BHMT is inactive in a reducing agent-free buffer, and that this disulfide can be readily reduced with the concomitant restoration of activity by re-establishing reducing conditions. Long-term exposure of BHMT to reducing agent-free buffer results in the slow, irreversible loss of its catalytic Zn and a corresponding loss of activity. Experiments using the glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit knockout mice Gclm(-/-), which are severely impaired in glutathione synthesis, show that BHMT activity is reduced about 75% in Gclm(-/-) compared to Gclm(+/+) mice.