1. The activated amide (4-nitroanilide), N-(4-nitrophenyl) N'-butyl-1,4-phenylenediacetamide (III) was synthesized. 2. A polyclonal antibody preparation (PCA 270-29) was elicited in a multigeneration cross-bred sheep (no. 270) and isolated 29 weeks into the immunization schedule by procedures described previously for PCA 270-22 [Gallacher, Jackson, Searcey, Badman, Goel, Topham, Mellor & Brocklehurst (1991) Biochem J. 271, 871-881]. These involved the use of an amide conjugate bonded through the carboxy group of 4-nitrophenyl 4'-carboxymethylphenyl phosphate and an amino group of keyhole-limpet haemocyanin as the immunogen. 3. PCA 270-29 was shown to catalyse the hydrolysis of both the carbonate ester substrate 4-nitrophenyl 4'-(3-aza-2-oxoheptyl)phenyl carbonate (I) and the amide substrate (III). Both catalyses obeyed the Michaelis-Menten equation with the following values of the parameters at 25 degrees C: for the hydrolysis of (I) at pH 8.0, Km = 3.96 +/- 0.28 microM and k(cat.) = 0.135 +/- 0.004 s-1 (k(non-cat.) = 1.99 x 10(-4) s-1); for the hydrolysis of (III) at pH 9.0, Km = 5.4 +/- 1.4 microM and k(cat.) = (5.95 +/- 0.75) x 10(-5) s-1 (k(non-cat.) = approx. 2 x 10(-7) s-1). 4. The finding that PCA 270-29 is almost equally effective as a catalyst for the hydrolysis of the amide (III) as for that of the carbonate ester (I) when allowance is made for the different intrinsic reactivities of the two types of substrate is discussed. The catalytic characteristics of PCA 270-29, the first example of a polyclonal catalytic antibody preparation shown to catalyse the hydrolysis of an amide and the first example of an antibody preparation (monoclonal or polyclonal) with such catalytic character to be produced by use of a phosphate immunogen, are compared with those of the small number of other antibody-mediated hydrolyses of amides in the literature.