T3 is the principal bioactive thyroid hormone, although its metabolite 3,3',5-triiodothyroacetic acid (TA3) shows higher affinity for the nuclear T3 receptor. However, TA3 has a low in vivo potency because of its short half-life in both humans and rats. We have compared the glucuronidation of TA3, 3,3',5,5'-tetraiodothyroacetic (TA4), T3, and T4 by human and rat liver microsomes. In rat liver, TA3 and TA4 were glucuronidated about 20 times faster than T3 and T4. Both TA3 and TA4 glucuronides were stable during treatment with dilute base or methanol, suggesting that they represent ether glucuronides with the phenolic hydroxyl group. In human liver, TA3 and TA4 were glucuronidated about 1500 and 200 times faster than T3 and T4, respectively. Both TA3 and TA4 glucuronides were hydrolyzed by treatment for 30 min at 37 C with 0.1 M NaOH and showed transesterification to the methyl esters by treatment with methanol, suggesting that they represent ester glucuronides with the carboxyl group. Therefore, both TA3 and TA4 undergo very rapid, but different, types of glucuronidation in human and rat liver. The high glucuronidation rates may explain their short half-lives and the low bioactivity of TA3 in vivo.