Sulfatases catalyze the hydrolysis of sulfate ester bonds from a wide variety of substrates and are implicated in several human inherited diseases. Multiple sulfatase deficiency (MSD) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by the simultaneous deficiency of all known sulfatases. MSD is caused by mutations in the Sulfatase Modifying Factor 1 (SUMF1) gene encoding the α-formylglycine generating enzyme (FGE), which is responsible for the post-translational modification of sulfatases. In all MSD patients, residual sulfatase activities are detectable, at variable levels. To correlate the nature of the residual sulfatase activities detected in MSD patients with residual FGE activity, four FGE mutants (i.e. p.S155P, p.R224W, p.R345C, p.R349W) found in homozygosis in MSD patients were analyzed. Using viral-mediated gene delivery, these mutants were over-expressed in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from a recently developed Sumf1 KO mouse line which is completely devoid of all sulfatase activities. The results obtained indicate that mutant SUMF1 cDNAs encode stable SUMF1 proteins which are of the appropriate molecular weight and are properly localized in the endoplasmic reticulum. Expression of these cDNAs in Sumf1-/- MEFs results in partial rescue of sulfatase activities. These data indicate that MSD is due to hypomorphic SUMF1 mutations and suggest that complete loss of SUMF1 function is likely to be lethal in humans. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.