Aldose reductase, a monomeric NADPH-dependent oxidoreductase, catalyzes the reduction of a wide variety of aldehydes and ketones to their corresponding alcohols. The X-ray structure of human aldose reductase holoenzyme in complex with statil was determined at a resolution of 2.1 A. The carboxylate group of statil interacted with the conserved anion binding site located between the nicotinamide ring of the coenzyme and active site residues Tyr48, His110, and Trp111. Statil's hydrophobic phthalazinyl ring was bound in an adjacent pocket lined by residues Trp20, Phe122, and Trp219, with the bromo-fluorobenzyl group penetrating the "specificity" pocket. The interactions between the inhibitor's bromo-fluorobenzyl group and the enzyme include the stacking against the side-chain of Trp111 as well as hydrogen bonding to residues Leu300 and Thr113. Based on the model of the ternary complex, the program GRID was used in an attempt to design novel potential inhibitors of human aldose reductase with enhanced binding energies of the complex. Molecular modeling calculations suggested that the replacement of the fluorine atom of statil with a carboxylate functional group may enhance the binding energies of the complex by 33%.