Betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase has been purified to homogeneity from rat liver mitochondria. The properties of betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase were similar to those of human cytoplasmic E3 isozyme in substrate specificity and kinetic constants for substrates. The primary structure of four tryptic peptides was also similar; only two substitutions, at most, per peptide were observed. Thus, betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase is not a specific enzyme, as formerly believed; activity with betaine aldehyde is a property of aldehyde dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52), which has broad substrate specificity. Up to the present time the enzyme was thought to be cytoplasmic in mammals. This report establishes, for the first time, mitochondrial subcellular localization for aldehyde dehydrogenase, which dehydrogenates betaine aldehyde, and its colocalization with choline dehydrogenase. Betaine aldehyde dehydrogenation is an important function in the metabolism of choline to betaine, a major osmolyte. Betaine is also important in mammalian organisms as a major methyl group donor and nitrogen source. This is the first purification and characterization of mitochondrial betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase from any mammalian species.