Three sisters, each with chondrocalcinosis/arthropathy, are described who have the clinical, laboratory and pathologic findings characteristic of the adult form of hypophosphatasia. Premature loss of adult teeth, arthralgias and pain from bilateral femoral pseudofractures were associated with subnormal circulating alkaline phosphatase levels, phosphoethanolaminuria and osteomalacia diagnosed by iliac crest biopsy. Assay of alkaline phosphatase activity in the blood of kindred members revealed hypophosphatasemia in one of two younger brothers. Several subjects in subsequent generations also had suspiciously tow alkaline phosphatase activity, but did not have histories of significant dental, bone or joint disease. Review of the medical records of the sisters' parents, aunts and uncles revealed normal alkaline phosphatase levels in their father and five of his siblings, but consistently low levels in their mother and two of her siblings. Despite hypophosphatasemia, the sisters' mother and her siblings lived to old age without clinical or radiographic evidence of bone disease. Our findings suggest that although adult hypophosphatasia can be transmitted as a dominant trait in some kindreds, there is considerable variation in the clinical expression of the biochemical defect. One person, generation or family may manifest clinical bone disease and arthropathy whereas the biochemical defect may be present but remain asymptomatic in others. Furthermore, in some cases, the adult form of hypophosphatasia may represent a developmental disorder with hypophosphatasemia appearing during adulthood.