The physical characteristics of nonspecific alkaline phosphatase (ALP) from both mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) and gonads were compared with corresponding samples from other organs at different developmental stages. Combining a cytochemical approach with polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and the use of specific inhibitors, as well as neuraminidase treatment, heat sensitivity tests, and molecular-mass criteria, it was found that only one ALP isoenzyme was present in all organs up to day 14 of gestation. Distinct ALP isoenzymes first appeared in the small intestine on day 15 and, thereafter, in all other tissues except the gonads. In these organs, the embryonal ALP isoenzyme seemed to be retained until adulthood. Although the placenta had a different ALP isoenzyme than the embryo at all stages, this isoenzyme was found to be similar to that in the maternal decidual tissues. Therefore, we conclude that the mouse embryo only expresses one type of ALP that can be considered "embryonal", regardless of the organ in which it first appears, and that this ALP is conserved in the gonads.