Histochemical identification of osteoclasts. Review of current methods and reappraisal of a simple procedure for routine diagnosis on undecalcified human iliac bone biopsies

Basic Appl Histochem. 1983;27(2):75-85.


Osteoclasts are known to have a high acid phosphatase content. We have adapted the simple simultaneous mono-coupling azo-dye method of Grogg and Pearse to undecalcified bone sections. A cold embedding in a mixture of glycol and methyl methacrylate was shown to well preserve the enzyme activity. Sodium alpha-naphtyl phosphate (1 mg/ml) and fast violet B (2 mg/ml) are used in 0.1 M acetate buffer, pH 5.0. The addition of 1 mM L(+) sodium tartrate selectively inhibits the acid phosphoprotein phosphatase ("osteoblastic acid phosphatase") but not osteoclastic lysosomal acid phosphatase. Counterstaining with phosphomolybdic aniline blue WS leads to well contrasted sections, providing accurate measurements of osteoclast number.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism*
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / enzymology
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / pathology
  • Cell Count
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Histological Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Ilium / pathology*
  • Osteoclasts / enzymology*
  • Osteoclasts / pathology
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Acid Phosphatase