The inhibition of the tumor-associated transmembrane carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX) isozyme has been investigated with a series of aromatic and heterocyclic sulfonamides, including the six clinically used derivatives acetazolamide, methazolamide, ethoxzolamide, dichlorophenamide, dorzolamide and brinzolamide. Inhibition data for the physiologically relevant isozymes I and II (cytosolic forms) and IV (membrane-bound) were also provided for comparison. A very interesting and unusual inhibition profile against CA IX with these sulfonamides has been observed. Several nanomolar (K(I)-s in the range of 14-50 nM) CA IX inhibitors have been detected, both among the aromatic (such as orthanilamide, homosulfonilamide, 4-carboxy-benzenesulfonamide, 1-naphthalenesulfonamide and 1,3-benzenedisulfonamide derivatives) as well as the heterocylic (such as 1,3,4-thiadizole-2-sulfonamide, etc.) sulfonamides examined. Because CA IX is a highly active isozyme predominantly expressed in tumor tissues with poor prognosis of disease progression, this finding is very promising for the potential design of CA IX-specific inhibitors with applications as anti-tumor agents.