Mitochondrial 2-enoyl-CoA reductase from bovine liver was purified and characterized. A simple three-step purification was developed, involving ion-exchange chromatography to separate the bulk of the NADPH-dependent 2,4-dienoyl-CoA reductase, followed by chromatography on Blue Sepharose and adenosine 2',5'-bisphosphate-Sepharose. Homogeneous enzyme with a subunit Mr of 35 500 is obtained in 35% yield. The Mr of the native enzyme, determined by three different methods, yielded values that suggest that the enzyme is dimeric. NADPH is required as cofactor, and cannot be replaced by NADH. The activity of the purified enzyme towards 2-trans-double bonds in 2-monoene and 2,4-diene structures was investigated. 2-Enoyl-CoA reductase reduced the double bonds in a series of 2-trans-monoenoyl-CoA esters with different chain lengths, but did not exhibit significant activity towards 2-trans-double bonds of 2,4-dienoyl-CoA esters. This result is discussed in the light of analogous observations with enoyl-CoA hydratase.