Although mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) has been thought to play a major role in acetaldehyde detoxification, and the high incidence of ‘alcohol flushing’ among Orientals is attributed to the inherited deficiency of ALDH2, the role of cytosolic aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH1) cannot be ignored. On the premise that alcohol flushing in Caucasians could be related to ALDH1 abnormalities, we examined the enzyme properties and electrophoretic mobilities of ALDH1 partially purified from red blood cells of nine unrelated alcohol flushers. One exhibited very low activity (10–20% of control level), and another exhibited moderately low activity (60%) and altered kinetic properties. The electrophoretic mobilities of these two samples were also distinguishable from the control samples. Immunological quantitation indicated that the amounts of ALDH1 protein in these two samples were not reduced in parallel with their enzyme deficiency. In the first case, the two characteristics, i.e. very low enzyme activity and alcohol flushing, were inherited by her daughter.