A novel and sensitive chemiluminescent assay is described to quantitate the acyl transfer activities of blood coagulation factor XIIIa or liver transglutaminase using aminobutyl-N-ethylisoluminol as acyl acceptor and N,N-dimethylcasein, human plasma fibrinogen or fibronectin as acyl donors. The method involved covalently linking aminobutyl-N-ethyl-isoluminol through its free amino group with the gamma-carboxamide of protein-bound glutamine resulting in an isopeptide bond; a reaction catalysed by both transglutaminase and factor XIIIa. The protein-bound aminobutyl-N-ethyl-isoluminol was separated from non-conjugated amine by precipitation with trichloroacetic acid. The protein-amine conjugate was dissolved in 500 mmol/L NaOH, oxidized using 15 mmol/L ammonium persulphate and light emission quantitated using a luminometer. Optimal conditions were established to detect factor XIIIa and transglutaminase activities with the chemiluminescent assay. Specificity was demonstrated by lack of activity in the presence of ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid or unactivated factor XIII, or boiled enzymes, and by competitive inhibition with putrescine and 5'-(biotinamido) pentylamine. The enzymatic and kinetic properties of factor XIIIa and transglutaminase in utilizing aminobutyl-N-ethyl-isoluminol as an acyl acceptor substrate were comprehensively documented. The reaction could be carried out in either a purified system or a complex plasma or cell lysates milieu. The assay is sensitive, specific, and eliminates a need for radioactive reagents. The assay could be used to photolabel reactive glutamines in substrates. The assay could also be adapted to a variety of solid- and solution-phase formats and is amenable to X-ray film and/or light photography imaging.