||1,4,5,6-Tetrahydronicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (H2NADH) has been investigated as a reduced coenzyme analog in the reaction between trans-4-N,N-dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde (I) (lambdamax 398 nm, epsilonmax 3.15 X 10-4 M-minus 1 cm-minus 1) and the horse liver alcohol dehydrogenase-NADH complex. These equilibrium binding and temperature-jump kinetic studies establish the following. (i) Substitution of H2NADH for NADH limits reaction to the reversible formation of a new chromophoric species, lambdamax 468 nm, epsilonmax 5.8 x 10-4 M-minus 1 cm-minus 1. This chromophore is demonstrated to be structurally analogous to the transient intermediate formed during the reaction of I with the enzyme-NADH complex [Dunn, M. F., and Hutchison, J. S. (1973), Biochemistry 12, 4882]. (ii) The process of intermediate formation with the enzyme-NADH complex is independent of pH over the range 6.13-10.54. Although studies were limited to the pH range 5.98-8.72, a similar pH independence appears to hold for the H2NADH system. (iii) Within the ternary complex, I is bound within van der Waal's contact distance of the coenzyme nicotinamide ring. (iv) Formation of the transient intermediate does not involve covalent modification of coenzyme. Based on these findings, we conclude that zinc ion has a Lewis acid function in facilitating the chemical activation of the aldehyde carbonyl for reduction, and that reduced coenzyme plays a noncovalent effector role in this substrate activating step.