The in vivo formation of the sulfate ester of glycolithocholate is a critical step in the elimination of this hepatotoxic bile salt. Rhesus monkeys fed chenodeoxycholate or ursodeoxycholate, the precursors of lithocholate, develop frank cirrhosis in association with accumulation of nonsulfated glycolithocholate in bile. An enzyme catalyzing the formation of glycolithocholate-3-sulfate has been isolated from hepatic cytosol of adult female rhesus monkeys and has been purified 146-fold. When reduced it appears as a 30 kD band on an SDS-polyacrylamide gradient gel. It has a pH optimum of 7.0 and is stimulated by low concentrations of Mg2+ (up to 2 mM), but does not have an absolute requirement for this metal ion. The kinetics of this enzyme have been investigated to ascertain whether its reaction mechanism can account for the poor in vivo rate of glycolithocholate sulfation. Inhibitor studies with an oxidized metabolite of lithocholate, 3-keto-5 beta-cholanoate, showed that the latter is a competitive inhibitor of glycolithocholate and is noncompetitive with the active form of sulfate, 3'phosphoadenosine-5'-phosphosulfate. The monophosphonucleotide 3'-AMP is a competitive inhibitor of 3'phosphoadenosine-5'-phosphosulfate, and is noncompetitive with glycolithocholate. These observations are consistent with a sequentially ordered Bi Bi reaction mechanism in which the bile salt is the first substrate to bind to the enzyme. Such a reaction mechanism for bile salt:3'phosphoadenosine-5'-phosphosulfate:sulfotransferase would be, therefore, the first time in which the sulfate acceptor (the bile salt) is the initial substrate to bind to a sulfotransferase. These studies have shown that although rhesus monkeys have a liver enzyme capable of forming the sulfate ester of glycolithocholate, its reaction mechanism and the potent inhibition caused by simple metabolites, such as 3-keto-5 beta-cholanoate, may serve to under-express the activity of the enzyme in vivo.