Clostridium sp. strain S1, an unnamed bile acid-desulfating strain from rat intestinal microflora (S.M. Huijghebaert, J. A. Mertens, and H. J. Eyssen, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 43:185-192, 1982), was examined for its ability to desulfate different bile acid sulfates and steroid sulfates in growing cultures. Clostridium sp. strain S1 desulfated the 3 alpha-monosulfates of chenodeoxycholic, deoxycholic, and cholic acid, but not their 7 alpha- or 12 alpha-monosulfates. Among the 3-sulfates of the 5 alpha- and 5 beta-bile acids, only bile acid-3-sulfates with an equatorial sulfate group were desulfated. Hence, Clostridium sp. strain S1 desulfated the 3-sulfates of bile acids with a 3 alpha, 5 beta-, a 3 beta, 5 alpha- or a 3 beta, delta 5-structure. In contrast, the bile acid-3-sulfates with a 3 beta, 5 beta- or a 3 alpha, 5 alpha-structure were not desulfated. In addition, Clostridium sp. strain S1 did not hydrolyze the equatorial 3-sulfate esters of C19 and C21 steroids and cholesterol or the phenolic 3-sulfate esters of estrone and estradiol. 23-Nordeoxycholic acid with a C-23 carboxyl group was also not desulfated, in contrast to the 5 beta-bile acid 3 alpha-sulfates with a C-24 or C-26 carboxyl group. Therefore, the specificity of the sulfatase of Clostridium sp. strain S1 is related to the location of the sulfate group on the bile acid molecule, the equatorial orientation of the sulfate group, and the structure of the C-17 side chain, its carboxyl group, and chain length.