Monoamine oxidase (MAO) oxidizes biologically important amines including neurotransmitters and plays a central role in the regulation of intracellular level of these amines. Two distinct forms of MAO (MAO A and MAO B) were defined based on differences in substrate and inhibitor specificities. We earlier reported that the region between about residues 120 and 220 of rat MAO is responsible for determination of the substrate selectivity of MAO A and B (Tsugeno, Y. Hirashiki, I., Ogata, F., and Ito, A. (1995) J. Biochem. (Tokyo) 118, 974-980). To determine the essential amino acids in this region that participate in substrate recognition, a series of mutant enzymes in which amino acid residues that are conserved among various species but are different between the two forms of the enzyme were replaced with the corresponding amino acids of the counterpart and were engineered from the cDNAs of rat liver MAO A and B, and affinities for several substrates were examined. A single mutation in which Phe-208 in MAO A was substituted by the corresponding residue of Ile in MAO B was sufficient to convert the A-type substrate selectivity, and the reverse was exactly the case. Phe at this position was replaceable with Tyr for the A-type specificity and Ile was replaceable with Val and Ala for the B-type. Thus, aromatic and aliphatic residues seem to contribute to render substrate selectivity of MAO A and MAO B, respectively.