The rate of association of NAD(+) with wild-type horse liver alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is maximal at pH values between pK values of about 7 and 9, and the rate of NADH association is maximal at a pH below a pK of 9. The catalytic zinc-bound water, His-51 (which interacts with the 2'- and 3'-hydroxyl groups of the nicotinamide ribose of the coenzyme in the proton relay system), and Lys-228 (which interacts with the adenosine 3'-hydroxyl group and the pyrophosphate of the coenzyme) may be responsible for the observed pK values. In this study, the Lys228Arg, His51Gln, and Lys228Arg/His51Gln (to isolate the effect of the catalytic zinc-bound water) mutations were used to test the roles of the residues in coenzyme binding. The steady state kinetic constants at pH 8 for the His51Gln enzyme are similar to those for wild-type ADH. The Lys228Arg and Lys228Arg/His51Gln substitutions decrease the affinity for the coenzymes up to 16-fold, probably due to altered interactions with the arginine at position 228. As determined by transient kinetics, the rate constant for association of NAD(+) with the mutated enzymes no longer decreases at high pH. The pH profile for the Lys228Arg enzyme retains the pK value near 7. The His51Gln and Lys228Arg/His51Gln substitutions significantly decrease the rate constants for NAD(+) association, and the pH dependencies show that these enzymes bind NAD(+) most rapidly at a pH above pK values of 8. 0 and 9.0, respectively. It appears that the pK of 7 in the wild-type enzyme is shifted up by the H51Q substitutions, and the resulting pH dependence is due to the deprotonation of the catalytic zinc-bound water. Kinetic simulations suggest that isomerization of the enzyme-NAD(+) complex is substantially altered by the mutations. In contrast, the pH dependencies for NADH association with His51Gln, Lys228Arg, and Lys228Arg/His51Gln enzymes were the same as for wild-type ADH, suggesting that the binding of NAD(+) and the binding of NADH are controlled differently.