Aldehyde dehydrogenase was purified 187-fold from cytosol of rat testis by chromatographic methods and gel filtration with a yield of about 50%. The enzyme exhibits absolute requirement for exogenous sulfhydryl compounds and strong dependence on temperature. Addition of 0.4mM Ca2 or Mg2 ions results in 50% inhibition. Optimally active at pH 8.5 and 50 degrees C, aldehyde dehydrogenase displays broad substrate specificity; saturation curves with acetaldehyde and propionaldehyde are non-hyperbolic, with Hill coefficients comprised between 0.8 and 0.7. Strong substrate inhibition can be observed with both aromatic and long-chain alyphatic aldehydes. According to mathematical models, Km decreases from 246 microM for acetaldehyde to 4 microM for capronaldehyde and Ki decreases from about 4mM for butyraldehyde to 0.2 mM for capronaldehyde.