Recent studies in this laboratory characterized the UGT3A family enzymes, UGT3A1 and UGT3A2, and showed that neither uses the traditional UDP-glycosyltransferase UGT co-substrate UDP-glucuronic acid. Rather, UGT3A1 uses GlcNAc as preferred sugar donor and UGT3A2 uses UDP-Glc. The enzymatic characterization ofUGT3Amutants, structural modeling, and multispecies gene analysis have now been employed to identify a residue within the active site of these enzymes that confers their unique sugar preferences. An asparagine (Asn-391) in the UGT signature sequence of UGT3A1 is necessary for utilization of UDP-GlcNAc. Conversely, a phenylalanine (Phe-391) in UGT3A2 favors UDP-Glc use. Mutation of Asn-391 to Phe in UGT3A1 enhances its ability to utilize UDP-Glc and completely inhibits its ability to use UDP-GlcNAc. An analysis of homology models docked with UDP-sugar donors indicates that Asn-391 in UGT3A1 is able to accommodate the N-acetyl group on C2 of UDP-GlcNAc so that the anomeric carbon atom (C1) is optimally situated for catalysis involving His-35. Replacement of Asn with Phe at position 391 disrupts this catalytically productive orientation of UDP-GlcNAc but allows a more optimal alignment of UDP-Glc for sugar donation. Multispecies sequence analysis reveals that only primates possess UGT3A sequences containing Asn-391, suggesting that other mammals may not have the capacity to N-acetylglucosaminidate small molecules. In support of this hypothesis, Asn-391-containing UGT3A forms from two non-human primates were found to use UDP-GlcNAc, whereas UGT3A isoforms from non-primates could not use this sugar donor. This work gives new insight into the residues that confer sugar specificity to UGT family members and suggests a primate-specific innovation in glycosidation of small molecules.