The choline homologue 3-[(trimethylammonio)methyl]catechol (TMC) has been synthesized, and the controllable features of its complex oxidation have been examined spectroscopically and correlated with its toxin binding inactivating reactions with the acetylcholine receptor (AcChR) from Torpedo californica electroplax. Affinity-dependent reactions of early intermediates in the oxidation of TMC are suggested to intercede covalently in this inactivation. At pH 7.4, where the oxidative polymerization of catechols proceeds spontaneously, pyrocatechol produced no effect on the toxin binding function of AcChR, whereas comparable concentrations of TMC led to inactivation of half of all available sites. Lower concentrations of TMC converted via oxidation with eerie salts to an in situ mixture of monohydroxylated catechols were shown to be effective in short-term incubations in inactivating approximately half of the toxin binding sites by covalent labeling of the receptor. Mixtures of dihydroxycatechol intermediates, hydroxy-p-quinones, and polymeric products led to nonspecific toxin binding site inactivation of AcChR in excess of half of all available sites. Collectively, the results suggest that both covalent labeling and oxygen reduction product inactivating mechanisms are operative in these model macromolecular site reactions and that catechol-containing affinity reagents may be useful in elucidating the molecular features of sites to which they are directed.