The tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) of skeletal osteoclasts was found to partially dephosphorylate the bone matrix phosphoproteins osteopontin (OPN) and bone sialoprotein (BSP). TRAP also partially dephosphorylated metabolically [32P]PO4-labeled OPN as well as BSP, whereas comparable amounts of either alkaline phosphatase or prostatic acid phosphatase, at their respective pH optima, were ineffective, indicating a certain preference of TRAP for these phosphoprotein substrates. It has previously (Flores, M., Norgärd, M., Heinegård, D., Reinholt, F. P., and Andersson, G. (1992) Exp. Cell Res. 201, 526-530) been shown that osteoclasts bind to OPN as well as to BSP coated onto glass. We can now show that the partially dephosphorylated proteins no longer support osteoclast binding. These results indicate that the secretion of TRAP from osteoclasts into the resorption area could exert a regulatory influence on the attachment of the cells to the bone surface. This could imply roles in the development of ruffled borders and/or in the regulation of osteoclast motility on the bone surface.