Aromatase converts androgens to aromatic estrogens. Aromatase inhibitors have been used as first-line drugs in the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer. Structural basis of the aromatization reaction and drug recognition by aromatase has remained elusive because of its unknown three-dimensional structure. In this study, recombinant human aromatase was expressed and purified from Escherichia coli. Using this purified and active preparation, the three-dimensional folding of aromatase was revealed by proteomic analysis. Combined with site-directed mutagenesis, several critical residues involved in enzyme catalysis and suicide inhibition by exemestane were evaluated. Based on our results, a new clamping mechanism of substrate/exemestane binding to the active site is proposed. These structure-function studies of aromatase would provide useful information to design more effective aromatase inhibitors for the prevention and the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer.