Dolichyl [beta-32P]pyrophosphate ([beta-32P]Dol-P-P) has been prepared chemically to study Dol-P-P phosphatase in calf brain. Calf brain microsomes catalyze the enzymatic release of 32Pi from exogenous [beta-32P]Dol-P-P by a bacitracin-sensitive reaction. [32P]Pyrophosphate was not detected with the water-soluble product even when 1 mM sodium pyrophosphate was added to impede pyrophosphatase activity. A substantial fraction of the Dol-P-P phosphatase activity can be solubilized by treating brain microsomes with 3% Triton X-100. The detergent extracts catalyze the enzymatic release of 32Pi from [beta-32P]Dol-P-P and the conversion of [14C]undecaprenyl pyrophosphate to [14C]undecaprenyl monophosphate. The solubilized Dol-P-P phosphatase activity: 1) is optimal at neutral pH; 2) is inhibited by Mn2+ and stimulated by EDTA; 3) exhibits an apparent Km = 20 microM for Dol-P-P; 4) is competitively inhibited by undecaprenyl pyrophosphate, and 5) is blocked by bacitracin. Solubilized Dol-P-P phosphatase activity differs from Dol-P phosphatase activity present in the same detergent extracts with respect to: 1) thermolability at 50 degrees C, 2) effect of 20 mM EDTA, and 3) sensitivity to phosphate and fluoride ions. These studies describe the chemical synthesis of [beta-32P]Dol-P-P for use in a convenient assay of Dol-P-P phosphatase activity. A procedure for the solubilization of Dol-P-P phosphatase activity from microsomes is presented, and an enzymological comparison indicates that Dol-P-P and Dol-P phosphatase are separate enzymes in calf brain.