During the process of spermiogenesis (sperm activation) in Caenorhabditis elegans, the dramatic morphological events that ultimately transform round sessile spermatids into polar motile spermatozoa occur without the synthesis of any new gene products. Previous studies have identified four genes (spe-8, spe-12, spe-27 and spe-29) that specifically block spermiogenesis and lead to hermaphrodite-specific fertility defects. Here, we report the cloning and characterization of a new component of the sperm activation pathway, spe-19, that is required for fertility in hermaphrodites. spe-19 is predicted to encode a novel single-pass transmembrane protein. The spe-19 mutant phenotype, genetic interactions and the molecular nature of the gene product suggest SPE-19 to be a candidate for the receptor/co-receptor necessary for the transduction of the activation signal across the sperm plasma membrane.