An improved procedure for phosphate determination based on a highly colored complex of phosphomolybdate and malachite green is described. All necessary reagents are combined in one concentrated solution, making the assay sensitive and convenient. The procedure is based on the finding that the dye is easily soluble and stable in the presence of 6 N acid. The addition of Tween 20 is required to stabilize the dye-phosphomolybdate complex at phosphate concentrations above 10 microM. The time of color development at 25 degrees C is about 3 min. The procedure was adopted to measure alkaline phosphate activity in heterogeneous enzyme immunoassay with rho-nitrophenyl phosphate and pyrophosphate as substrates. In both cases, a 4-fold increase in sensitivity in terms of absorbance readings was obtained compared to the standard method based on rho-nitrophenol measurement. In visual analysis, the gain in sensitivity was as high as 20-fold, due to contrast color change (yellow to greenish blue).