Reversible phosphorylation is a key mechanism for regulating the biological activity of many human proteins that affect a diverse array of cellular processes, including protein-protein interactions, gene transcription, cell-cycle progression and apoptosis. Once viewed as simple house keeping enzymes, recent studies have made it eminently clear that, like their kinase counterparts, protein phosphatases are dynamic and highly regulated enzymes. Therefore, the development of compounds that alter the activity of specific phosphatases is rapidly emerging as an important area in drug discovery. Because > 98% of protein phosphorylation occurs on serine and threonine residues, the identification of agents that alter the activity of specific serine / threonine phosphatases seems especially promising for drug development in the future. This review is focused on the enzymes encoded by the PPP-gene family, which includes PP1, PP2A, PP2B, PP4, PP5, PP6 and PP7. The structure / functions of human phosphatases will be addressed briefly, as will the natural product inhibitors of PP1-PP6 (e.g. okadaic acid, microcystins, nodularin, cantharidin, calyculin A, tautomycin, and fostriecin). The development of chimeric antisense oligonucleotides that support RNAase H mediated degradation of the targeted mRNA has resulted in compounds capable of specifically suppressing the expression of PP5 (ISIS 15534) and PP1gamma 1 (ISIS 14435) in human cells. Such compounds have already proven useful for the validation of drug targets, and if difficulties associated with systemic delivery of antisense oligonucleotides can be overcome, antisense is poised to have a major impact on the clinical management of many human disorders.