Genes encoding the U2 snRNA have been isolated from the sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Lytechinus variegatus. Representatives of tandemly repeated gene sets have been isolated from both sea urchin species and a unique U2 gene has also been isolated from L. variegatus. The sequence of the U2 snRNA encoded by the tandemly repeated genes differs in two nucleotides between S. purpuratus and L. variegatus. The unique U2 gene from L. variegatus encodes the same U2 RNA as the tandemly repeated genes. There is a change in the U2 genes expressed between morula and pluteus embryos as judged by a change in the U2 RNA sequence in S. purpuratus embryos. The tandemly repeated genes were expressed at a higher rate in blastula than in gastrula stage relative to the single-copy gene, when the two genes were injected into sea urchin zygotes.