Phosphatases are known to play a crucial role in phosphate turnover in plants. However, the exact role of acid phosphatases in plants has been elusive because of insufficient knowledge of their in vivo substrate and subcellular localization. We investigated the biochemical properties of a purple acid phosphatase isolated from red kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) (KBPAP) with respect to its substrate and inhibitor profiles. The kinetic parameters were estimated for five substrates. We used 31P nuclear magnetic resonance to investigate the in vivo substrate of KBPAP. Chemical and enzymological estimation of polyphosphates and ATP, respectively, indicated the absence of polyphosphates and the presence of ATP in trace amounts in the seed extracts. Immunolocalization using antibodies raised against KBPAP was unsuccessful because of the nonspecificity of the antiserum toward glycoproteins. Using histoenzymological methods with ATP as a substrate, we could localize KBPAP exclusively in the cell walls of the peripheral two to three rows of cells in the cotyledons. KBPAP activity was not detected in the embryo. In vitro experiments indicated that pectin, a major component of the cell wall, significantly altered the kinetic properties of KBPAP. The substrate profile and localization suggest that KBPAP may have a role in mobilizing organic phosphates in the soil during germination.