In order to establish whether a single enzyme in human liver was capable of conjugating bile acids with both glycine and taurine, a cDNA encoding human liver bile acid-CoA:amino acid N-acyltransferase (hBAT) has been isolated and characterized. A specific immunoaffinity-purified rabbit anti-hBAT polyclonal antibody was used to screen a lambda Zap XR human liver cDNA library resulting in the isolation of two unique clones. hBAT8 and hBAT9 (1669 and 1491 base pairs in length, respectively) were isolated following screening of 4 x 10(5) clones of the cDNA library. Restriction mapping and sequence analysis demonstrated that the cDNAs were identical except hBAT8 contained an additional 178 bases of 5' sequence; hBAT8 was completely sequenced, characterized, and used for all subsequent studies. hBAT8 consisted of a 184-nucleotide 5'-nontranslated region, an open reading frame of 1,254 bases predicting a protein of 418 amino acids with a molecular mass of 46,296 Da, and a 3'-nontranslated region of 209 nucleotides followed by a poly(A)+ tail. The identity of the cDNA was confirmed by the following findings: 1) the open reading frame began with an ATG codon and was followed by a nucleotide sequence which, when translated, corresponded exactly to the first 17 NH2-terminal amino acids of purified human liver BAT; 2) cytosol of Escherichia coli XL1-Blue cells transfected with hBAT8 subcloned into an expression vector, pKK233-2, demonstrated significant enzymatic activity for the conjugation of both taurine and glycine with cholic acid; 3) bacterial expression of hBAT8 generated a protein that comigrated with hBAT from human liver during SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and cross-reacted with a specific polyclonal rabbit anti-hBAT antibody during immunoblot analysis; 4) kinetic characteristics of the expressed enzyme were very similar to those reported for purified liver BAT. These data demonstrate that a single cDNA is present in human liver which codes for a protein capable of catalyzing the conjugation of cholic acid with both glycine and taurine.