Ethylene glycol ethers (EGEs) are primary alcohols commonly used as solvents in numerous household and industrial products. Exposure to EGEs has been correlated with delayed encephalopathy, metabolic acidosis, sub-fertility and spermatotoxicity in humans. In addition, they also cause teratogenesis, carcinogenesis, hemolysis, etc., in various animal models. Metabolism EGEs parallels ethanol metabolism, i.e., EGEs are first converted to 2-alkoxy acetaldehydes (EGE aldehydes) by alcohol dehydrogenases, and then to alkoxyacetic acids by aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs). The acid metabolite of EGEs is considered responsible for toxicities associated with EGEs. The role of human ALDHs in EGE metabolism is not clear; accordingly, we have investigated the ability of five different human ALDHs (ALDH1A1, ALDH2, ALDH3A1, ALDH5A1 and ALDH9A1) to catalyze the oxidation of various EGE aldehydes. The EGE aldehydes used in this study were synthesized via Swern oxidation. All of the human ALDHs were purified from human cDNA clones over-expressing these enzymes in E. coli. The ALDHs tested, so far, differentially catalyze the oxidation of EGE aldehydes to their corresponding acids (K(m) values range from approximately 10 microM to approximately 20.0mM). As judged by V(max)/K(m) ratios, short-chain alkyl-group containing EGE aldehydes are oxidized to their acids more efficiently by ALDH2, whereas aryl- and long-chain alkyl-group containing EGE aldehydes are oxidized to their acid more efficiently by ALDH3A1. Given the product of ALDH-catalyzed reaction is toxic, this process should be considered as a bio-activation (toxification) process.