Sulfation, catalyzed by members of the sulfotransferase enzyme family, is a major metabolic pathway which modulates the biological activity of numerous endogenous and xenobiotic chemicals. A number of these enzymes have been expressed in prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems to produce protein for biochemical and physical characterization. However, the effective use of heterologous expression systems to produce recombinant enzymes for such purposes depends upon the expressed protein faithfully representing the 'native' protein. For human sulfotransferases, little attention has been paid to this despite the widespread use of recombinant enzymes. Here we have validated a number of heterologous expression systems for producing the human dopamine-metabolizing sulfotransferase SULT1A3, including Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, COS-7, and V79 cells, by comparison of K(m) values of the recombinant enzyme in cell extracts with enzyme present in human platelets and with recombinant enzyme purified to homogeneity following E. coli expression. This is the first report of heterologous expression of a cytosolic sulfotransferase in yeast. Expression of SULT1A3 was achieved in all cell types, and the K(m) for dopamine under the conditions applied was approximately 1 µM in all heterologous systems studied, which compared favorably with the value determined with human platelets. We also determined the subunit and native molecular weights of the purified recombinant enzyme by SDS-PAGE, electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, dynamic light scattering, and sedimentation analysis. The enzyme purified following expression in E. coli existed as a homodimer with M(r) approximately 68,000 as determined by light scattering and sedimentation analysis. Mass spectrometry revealed two species with experimentally determined masses of 34,272 and 34,348 which correspond to the native protein with either one or two 2-mercaptoethanol adducts. We conclude that the enzyme expressed in prokaryotic and eukaryotic heterologous systems, and also purified from E. coli, equates to that which is found in human tissue preparations.