Major advances have been made during the last decade in our understanding of adrenal steroid hormone biosynthesis. Two key players in these pathways are the human mitochondrial cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP11B1 and CYP11B2, which catalyze the final steps in the biosynthesis of cortisol and aldosterone. Using data from mutations found in patients suffering from steroid hormonerelated diseases, from mutagenesis studies and from the construction of threedimensional models of these enzymes, structural information could be deduced that provide a clue to the stereo and regiospecific steroid hydroxylation reactions carried out by these enzymes. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the physiological function and the biochemistry of these enzymes. Furthermore, the pharmacological and toxicological importance of these steroid hydroxylases, the means for the identification of their potential inhibitors and possible biotechnological applications are discussed.
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