Alkaline phosphatase from cancer cells, HeLa TCRC-1, was biosynthetically labeled with either 3H-fatty acids or [3H]ethanolamine as analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and fluorography of immunoprecipitated material. Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) released a substantial proportion of the 3H-fatty acid label from immunoaffinity-purified alkaline phosphatase but had no effect on the radioactivity of [3H]ethanolamine-labeled material. PI-PLC also liberated catalytically active alkaline phosphatase from viable cells, and this could be selectively blocked by monoclonal antibodies to alkaline phosphatase. However, the alkaline phosphatase released from 3H-fatty acid labeled cells by PI-PLC was not radioactive. By contrast, treatment with bromelain removed both the 3H-fatty acid and the [3H]ethanolamine label from the purified alkaline phosphatase. Subtilisin was also able to remove the [3H]ethanolamine-labeled from purified alkaline phosphatase. The 3H radioactivity in alkaline phosphatase purified from [3H]ethanolamine-labeled cells comigrated with authentic [3H]ethanolamine by anion-exchange chromatography after acid hydrolysis. The data suggest that the 3H-fatty acid and [3H]ethanolamine are covalently attached to the carboxyl-terminal segment since bromelain and subtilisin both release alkaline phosphatase from the membrane by cleavage at that end of the polypeptide chain. The data are consistent with findings for other proteins recently shown to be anchored in the membrane through a glycosylphosphatidylinositol structure and indicate that a similar structure contributes to the membrane anchoring of alkaline phosphatase.