Purple acid phosphatases are a family of binuclear metallohydrolases that have been identified in plants, animals and fungi. Only one isoform of approximately 35 kDa has been isolated from animals, where it is associated with bone resorption and microbial killing through its phosphatase activity, and hydroxyl radical production, respectively. Using the sensitive PSI-BLAST search method, sequences representing new purple acid phosphatase-like proteins have been identified in mammals, insects and nematodes. These new putative isoforms are closely related to the approximately 55 kDa purple acid phosphatase characterized from plants. Secondary structure prediction of the new human isoform further confirms its similarity to a purple acid phosphatase from the red kidney bean. A structural model for the human enzyme was constructed based on the red kidney bean purple acid phosphatase structure. This model shows that the catalytic centre observed in other purple acid phosphatases is also present in this new isoform. These observations suggest that the sequences identified in this study represent a novel subfamily of plant-like purple acid phosphatases in animals and humans.