Monoclonal antibodies raised against axonemal proteins of sea urchin spermatozoa have been used to study regulatory mechanisms involved in flagellar motility. Here, we report that one of these antibodies, monoclonal antibody D-316, has an unusual perturbating effect on the motility of sea urchin sperm models; it does not affect the beat frequency, the amplitude of beating or the percentage of motile sperm models, but instead promotes a marked transformation of the flagellar beating pattern which changes from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional type of movement. On immunoblots of axonemal proteins separated by SDS-PAGE, D-316 recognized a single polypeptide of 90 kDa. This protein was purified following its extraction by exposure of axonemes to a brief heat treatment at 40°C. The protein copurified and coimmunoprecipitated with proteins of 43 and 34 kDa, suggesting that it exists as a complex in its native form. Using D-316 as a probe, a full-length cDNA clone encoding the 90-kDa protein was obtained from a sea urchin cDNA library. The sequence predicts a highly acidic (pI = 4.0) protein of 552 amino acids with a mass of 62,720 Da (p63). Comparison with protein sequences in databases indicated that the protein is related to radial spoke proteins 4 and 6 (RSP4 and RSP6) of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which share 37% and 25% similarity, respectively, with p63. However, the sea urchin protein possesses structural features distinct from RSP4 and RSP6, such as the presence of three major acidic stretches which contains 25, 17, and 12 aspartate and glutamate residues of 34-, 22-, and 14-amino acid long stretches, respectively, that are predicted to form α-helical coiled-coil secondary structures. These results suggest a major role for p63 in the maintenance of a planar form of sperm flagellar beating and provide new tools to study the function of radial spoke heads in more evolved species.