A novel class of effective CAIs has been identified, starting from a very weak carbonic anhydrase inhibitor (CAI), sulfamide, whose X-ray crystal structure in the adduct with hCA 11 has recently been reported. A series of N,N-disubstituted- and N-substituted-sulfamides were prepared from the corresponding amines and N-(tert-butoxycarbonyl)-N-[4-(dimethylazaniumylidene)-1,4-dihydropyridin-1-ylsulfonyl]azanide or the unstable N-(tert-butoxycarbonyl)sulfamoyl chloride. The disubstituted compounds being too bulky, were ineffective as CAIs, whereas mono-substituted derivatives (incorporating aliphatic, cyclic and aromatic moieties) as well as a bis-sulfamide, behaved as micro-nanomolar inhibitors of two cytosolic isozymes, hCA I and hCA 11, responsible for critical physiological processes in higher vertebrates. Aryl-sulfamides were more effective than aliphatic derivatives. Low nanomolar inhibitors have been detected, which generally incorporated 4-substituted phenyl moieties in their molecule. This is the first example of CAIs in which low nanomolar inhibitors were generated starting from a very ineffective lead molecule. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.