Sulfotransferase 2B1b, Sterol Sulfonation, and Disease

Pharmacol Rev. 2023 May;75(3):521-531. doi: 10.1124/pharmrev.122.000679. Epub 2022 Dec 22.


The primary function of human sulfotransferase 2B1b (SULT2B1b) is to sulfonate cholesterol and closely related sterols. SULT2B1b sterols perform a number of essential cellular functions. Many are signaling molecules whose activities are redefined by sulfonation-allosteric properties are switched "on" or "off," agonists are transformed into antagonists, and vice versa. Sterol sulfonation is tightly coupled to cholesterol homeostasis, and sulfonation imbalances are causally linked to cholesterol-related diseases including certain cancers, Alzheimer disease, and recessive X-linked ichthyosis-an orphan skin disease. Numerous studies link SULT2B1b activity to disease-relevant molecular processes. Here, these multifaceted processes are integrated into metabolic maps that highlight their interdependence and how their actions are regulated and coordinated by SULT2B1b oxysterol sulfonation. The maps help explain why SULT2B1b inhibition arrests the growth of certain cancers and make the novel prediction that SULT2B1b inhibition will suppress production of amyloid β (Aβ) plaques and tau fibrils while simultaneously stimulating Aβ plaque phagocytosis. SULT2B1b harbors a sterol-selective allosteric site whose structure is discussed as a template for creating inhibitors to regulate SULT2B1b and its associated biology. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Human sulfotransferase 2B1b (SULT2B1b) produces sterol-sulfate signaling molecules that maintain the homeostasis of otherwise pro-disease processes in cancer, Alzheimer disease, and X-linked ichthyosis-an orphan skin disease. The functions of sterol sulfates in each disease are considered and codified into metabolic maps that explain the interdependencies of the sterol-regulated networks and their coordinate regulation by SULT2B1b. The structure of the SULT2B1b sterol-sensing allosteric site is discussed as a means of controlling sterol sulfate biology.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Humans
  • Ichthyosis*
  • Sterols
  • Sulfates
  • Sulfotransferases / genetics
  • Sulfotransferases / metabolism


  • Sterols
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Sulfotransferases
  • Sulfates