Two enzymes of detoxification were studied in blood samples from 27 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and 18 controls to determine whether there is an abnormality in sulfur metabolism in UC. Thiol methyltransferase (TMT) activity was measured in erythrocyte membranes as the extent of conversion of 2-mercaptoethanol to S-methyl-2-mercaptoethanol with [3H]methyl-S-adenosyl methionine as methyl donor. Phenol sulfotransferase (PST) activity was measured in platelet homogenates as the extent of sulfation of p-nitrophenol with 3-phosphoadenosine 5-phospho[35S]sulfate (PAPS) as sulfate donor. TMT activity was significantly higher in UC patients (27.0 vs 17.1 nmol/mg protein/hr; P < 0.005). No difference in PST activity was found. We conclude that TMT may be up-regulated in UC to detoxify excess hydrogen sulfide exposed to the peripheral blood compartment. This may arise from either increased luminal sulfide production or reduced colonic detoxification.