Ultrastructural localization of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (purple acid phosphatase) activity in chicken cartilage and bone

Am J Anat. 1991 Jul;191(3):228-36. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001910303.


Tartrate-resistant acid adenosine triphosphatase activity at pH 6.5, using a lead-salt method, was localized at light and electron microscopic levels in cartilage and bone matrices, osteoclasts, and chondroclasts. Cartilage matrix staining occurred after vascular invasion of the growth plate. In osteoclasts, activity was present in lysosomes, extracellular ruffled border channels, and the underlying cartilage and bone matrices. Staining artifacts occurred at lower pH levels (pH 5.4, 5.0). Adenosine diphosphate, p-nitrophenylphosphate, thiamine pyrophosphate, and alpha-naphthylphosphate also acted as substrates; but no activity was observed when adenosine monophosphate, adenylate-(beta, gamma-methylene) diphosphate, and beta-glycerophosphate were used. The activity was inhibited by NaF, dithionite, and a high concentration of p-chloromercuribenzoic acid, and activated by simultaneous addition of FeCl2 and ascorbic acid, as has been shown in biochemical studies. These histochemical results support the view that the adenosine triphosphate hydrolyzing activity at pH 6.5 is due to tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP). There were some differences in ultrastructural localization between TRAP and tartrate-sensitive acid phosphatase (TSAP) activities in osteoclasts: TSAP activity was more intense in lysosomes and Golgi complexes and TRAP was stronger in the cartilage and bone matrices. It is suggested, therefore, that most of TRAP is in an inactive form in cells and is activated when secreted.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / analysis*
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / analysis
  • Animals
  • Bone Matrix / chemistry*
  • Bone Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Cartilage / chemistry*
  • Cartilage / ultrastructure
  • Chickens
  • Histological Techniques
  • Osteoblasts / chemistry*
  • Osteoblasts / ultrastructure
  • Osteoclasts / chemistry*
  • Osteoclasts / ultrastructure
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / analysis
  • Tartrates
  • Tibia / chemistry
  • Tibia / ultrastructure


  • Tartrates
  • glycerol-2-phosphatase
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • tartaric acid