Adult tissues of the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, were analyzed for the products of a set of genes whose expression, in the embryo, is restricted to the skeletogenic primary mesenchyme (PM). Three embryonic PM-specific mRNAs were found to be abundant in adult skeletal tissues (test and lantern), but not in a variety of soft tissues. Homologous mRNAs were also found in skeletal tissues of the congeneric sea urchin, S. droebachiensis, as well as a more distantly related echinoid, Dendraster excentricus, and an asteroid, Evasterias troschellii. The distributions of two of these RNAs were analyzed in regenerating spines of adult S. purpuratus using in situ hybridization. These gene products were localized primarily in the calcoblasts that accumulated at the regeneration site. In nonregenerating spines SpLM 18 RNAs, the most abundant of these gene products, were localized in a small population of noncalcoblast cells scattered through the spine shaft, and were absent from calcoblasts. These observations suggest that a program of gene expression associated with the process of calcification is conserved both developmentally through the period of metamorphosis and evolutionarily among the echinoderms.