A minor acid phosphatase isozyme (acid phosphatase I) of vegetative Dictyostelium discoideum amebae has been shown to be associated exclusively with the external surface of the plasma membrane. The isozyme is not present in phagocytic vacuoles isolated with latex beads. The isozyme disappears from cells removed from nutrient medium and does not reappear during differentiation. When inhibitors of protein synthesis (e.g. cycloheximide, chloral hydrate, concanavalin A) are added to cells growing in nutrient medium, acid phosphatase I is rapidly lost. It appears that the level of protein synthesis need only be moderately reduced (less than 25%) to induce loss of enzyme activity. Treatment with inhibitors of DNA and RNA synthesis for up to 2 h had no effect on isozyme activity. It is postulated that the cells are able to "sense" (through the reduction in levels of protein synthesis) when external conditions become unfavorable, and immediately respond by reducing the activity of enzymes involved in maintaining contact with the extracellular environment. The closed system thought necessary for differentiation would then be created.