Abstract The dehydratase activity of the bifunctional protein, 4a-hydroxy-tetrahydropterin dehydratase/DCoH was measured in liver during early human fetal development to determine whether it appeared in concert with the other components of the phenylalanine hydroxylating system. Catalytic activity of the dehydratase is detectable as early as 6.7 weeks and increases linearly with time, reaching 31% of the adult value by 17.3 weeks of gestational age. Close correlation was found with the development of dihydropteridine reductase, which increased linearly to 37% of the adult value at 17.3 weeks of gestation. From 8-18 weeks of gestation tetrahydrobiopterin in fetal liver was 0.86 μM (33% of adult value). The ratio of 7-biopterin to 6-biopterin was more than 8-fold higher in fetal than in adult liver during this time. The co-development of 4a-hydroxytetrahydropterin dehydratase with dihydropteridine reductase strongly supports a physiologically significant role for the dehydratase in tetrahydrobiopterin regeneration, In addition, the results have lead to a hypothesis for the transient nature of the hyperphenyl-alaninemia observed in a variant form of PKU in which levels of 7-biopterin are elevated.