The noninvasive assessment of bone turnover has received increasing attention over the past few years because of the need for sensitive markers in the clinical investigation of osteoporosis. Markers of bone formation include the serum measurement of total and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, and type I collagen extension peptides. Assessment of bone resorption can be achieved with measurement of fasting urinary calcium and hydroxyproline, urinary hydroxylysine glycosides, urinary excretion of the pyridinium cross-links (pyridinoline and deoxypyridinoline), and plasma tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity. Several studies performed in a variety of metabolic bone diseases have shown these markers to be of unequal sensitivity and specificity. In addition, some of them are not fully characterized. For assessment of the level of bone turnover in women with vertebral osteoporosis, serum osteocalcin and urinary pyridinoline appear to be the most sensitive markers so far. Programs combining bone mass measurement and assessment of bone turnover by several markers in women at the time of menopause are being developed in an attempt to improve the assessment of the risk for osteoporosis. Efforts are being made to develop more convenient assays and to identify other markers of bone turnover. A battery of various specific markers is likely to improve the assessment of the complex and subtle abnormalities of bone metabolism that characterize metabolic bone diseases, especially the various aspects of osteoporosis.