Sulfatases: structure, mechanism, biological activity, inhibition, and synthetic utility

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2004 Nov 5;43(43):5736-63. doi: 10.1002/anie.200300632.


Sulfatases, which cleave sulfate esters in biological systems, play a key role in regulating the sulfation states that determine the function of many physiological molecules. Sulfatase substrates range from small cytosolic steroids, such as estrogen sulfate, to complex cell-surface carbohydrates, such as the glycosaminoglycans. The transformation of these molecules has been linked with important cellular functions, including hormone regulation, cellular degradation, and modulation of signaling pathways. Sulfatases have also been implicated in the onset of various pathophysiological conditions, including hormone-dependent cancers, lysosomal storage disorders, developmental abnormalities, and bacterial pathogenesis. These findings have increased interest in sulfatases and in targeting them for therapeutic endeavors. Although numerous sulfatases have been identified, the wide scope of their biological activity is only beginning to emerge. Herein, accounts of the diversity and growing biological relevance of sulfatases are provided along with an overview of the current understanding of sulfatase structure, mechanism, and inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hormones / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Sulfatases* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Sulfatases* / chemistry
  • Sulfatases* / metabolism


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Hormones
  • Sulfatases