"The suicide bomber set off the explosives on him after throwing a grenade into the police station and killed one police officer and wounded four others at the entry," Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin told reporters at the scene.
The assailant, identified as a 25 year-old male, was also killed in the explosion, which also lightly injured three civilians, Mr Capkin said.
The attacker came running towards the Gazi police station in the Sultangazi district and blew himself up at the entrance, partially destroying the front door and the ceiling, witnesses said.
The wounded were taken to nearby hospitals and the toll was likely to rise, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, and Mr Capkin declined to comment on the attacker's organisation.
The neighbourhood, predominantly populated by Turkey's Alawite minority, was home to mass demonstrations in 1995 after 23 were killed in four days of unrest, 17 of them by police bullets, according to forensics reports.
The so-called Gazi riots were triggered after unidentified assailants randomly opened fire on people in March 1995, wounding dozens and killing two, one of them a religious leader.
Locals, who blamed the deaths on an inadequate police response, overran police stations and started a brief unrest that was contained after troops intervened.
In May, two suicide bombers killed one policeman when they drove into a police station in the central city of Kayseri and opened gun fire before setting off a bomb.
That attack killed one officer instantly, left another in critical condition and wounded 16 civilians, including several children. The two assailants were also killed.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said it had carried out the May attack.
Another suicide bombing took place last October in the eastern town of Bingol, where two people were killed when a woman blew herself up near the headquarters of the governing Justice and Development Party.
In November 2010 in Istanbul, a bomber blew himself up on the central Taksim square, wounding 32 people.