1 alpha-Hydroxyvitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase activity was measured in subcellular fractions of rat and human liver. The formation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D-3 was determined by high pressure liquid chromatography. In rat liver 1 alpha-hydroxyvitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase activities were found in the purified nuclei, the heavy mitochondrial fraction and the microsomal fraction. The enrichment of 25-hydroxylase activity was highest in the heavy mitochondrial fraction. With this fraction a minimum amount (about 0.5 mg) of protein was required before formation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D-3 could be detected. Above this amount the reaction was linear with amount of protein up to at least 2 mg/ml. The reaction was also linear with time up to 60 min. An apparent Km value of 2 X 10(-5) M was found. The mitochondrial 25-hydroxylase was stimulated by addition of cytosolic protein or bovine serum albumin. The degree of stimulation was dependent on the amount of mitochondrial protein present in the incubation mixture. Maximal stimulation was seen with 0.2 mg/ml of either protein in the presence of 0.5 mg mitochondrial protein. The stimulating effect remained after heating the protein for 5 min at 100 degrees C. The cytosolic protein did not stimulate a reconstituted mitochondrial 1 alpha-hydroxyvitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase. The mitochondrial vitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase was inhibited both by cytosolic protein and by bovine serum albumin. Human liver revealed only one 1 alpha-hydroxyvitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase activity located to the heavy mitochondrial fraction. The results are in agreement with previous studies on the localization of vitamin D-3 25-hydroxylase in rat and human liver. The difference in localization of the 25-hydroxylase between rat and human liver implies that studies on the regulation of the microsomal 25-hydroxylase in rat liver may not be relevant to the situation in human liver.