Previous studies have established the importance of a complex, N-linked oligosaccharide chain, recognized by a monoclonal antibody (mAb 1223), in the formation of sea urchin embryonic skeletal components known as spicules. To further investigate the function of this epitope, mAb 1223 was added to primary mesenchyme (PM) cell cultures prior to spiculogenesis. The antibody did not inhibit cell migration, cell attachment, or synthesis of the filapodial networks upon which the spicules are deposited. However, it did block deposition of mineralized CaCO3 along these filapodia, strongly supporting the previously proposed role for the 1223 epitope in calcium accumulation and/or deposition. Previously the 1223 epitope has been most extensively studied in association with a mesenchyme-specific protein of 130 kDa (msp 130). It has now been established, by Western blot analysis of whole embryo and PM cell extracts using mAb 1223, that two other proteins of 205 and 250 kDa contain the 1223 epitope. A study of the developmental profiles of expression of these glycoproteins revealed that all three were first expressed just prior to spiculogenesis, consistent with a role for any or all of these proteins in this process. Additionally all three proteins incorporated ethanolamine, myristate, and palmitate, the precursors of the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor. Further labeling studies revealed differences in the metabolic lability of the GPI anchor in the three proteins; pulse-chase studies demonstrated that the ethanolamine moiety was stable in msp 130, but was rapidly chased from the 205-kDa protein (T1/2 = 14 hr). Phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C partially released (50%) msp 130 from the PM cell surface, whereas it had no effect on release of the 205- and 250-kDa proteins. Studies with 35SO4 labeling and PNGase F treatment directly established that all three proteins are sulfated, and that most of the sulfate is attached to the N-linked oligosaccharide chains. Thus, the three major mAb 1223-reactive glycoproteins in PM cells are also the three major proteins containing both sulfated N-linked oligosaccharide chains and GPI anchors. Further investigation of this intriguing correlation may help to define the precise function of the 1223 epitope in the process of spicule formation.