Protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs), the enzymes that dephosphorylate tyrosyl phosphoproteins, were initially believed to be few in number and serve a 'housekeeping' role in signal transduction. Recent work indicates that this is totally incorrect. Instead, PTPs comprise a large superfamily whose members play critical roles in a wide variety of cellular processes. Moreover, PTPs exhibit exquisite substrate specificity in vivo. Recent evidence has led us to propose that members of the PTP family achieve selectivity through different combinations of specific targeting strategies and intrinsic catalytic domain specificity.