BACKGROUNDTartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP; EC 220.127.116.11) is a product of osteoclasts and a biochemical marker of bone resorption rate. However, erythrocytes and platelets contribute to total TRAP activity in serum, reducing the specificity of direct biochemical assays in serum. Osteoclast TRAP is also known as type-5 TRAP and is antigenically unique. Immunoassays are sought to improve the specificity and sensitivity of TRAP as a bone marker.METHODSWe developed two colorimetric microplate assays for type-5 TRAP: an enzyme capture immunoassay to measure antibody-bound enzymatic activity, and a two-site immunoassay to measure bound enzyme protein. Both use the same monoclonal antibody (14G6) to capture type-5 TRAP, which permits determination of specific activity of serum TRAP in health and disease.RESULTSBoth TRAP assays were linear from one-tenth to fivefold the mean value in 18 healthy subjects. In these subjects, the mean (SD) TRAP activity was 3.2 (0.54) U/L for the enzyme capture assay and 37 (13) microg/L for the two-site assay. Mean TRAP activity was not significantly increased in 64 patients with endstage renal disease requiring hemodialysis (HD) or 99 unselected patients with rheumatic diseases. By contrast, TRAP protein was increased in both the HD and rheumatic disease groups. The specific activity of TRAP in the 17 of 64 HD sera that had increased TRAP activity (0.088 U/microg) was similar to that in healthy subjects (0.091 U/microg). By contrast, the specific activity of TRAP in the 31 of 99 rheumatic sera with increased TRAP protein (0.035 U/microg) was significantly decreased.CONCLUSIONSWide sample distributions for TRAP activity in HD patients and TRAP protein in rheumatic disease patients suggest the presence of subpopulations of HD patients with increased TRAP activity and of rheumatic patients with increased TRAP protein. Each assay for TRAP activity and protein may have its own biological significance and clinical applications in specific groups of patients.