The cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum is an attractive system for studying the roles of microtubule-based motility in cell development and differentiation. In this work, we report the first molecular characterization of kinesin-related proteins (KRPs) in Dictyostelium. A PCR-based strategy was used to isolate DNA fragments encoding six KRPs, several of which are induced during the developmental program that is initiated by starvation. The complete sequence of one such developmentally regulated KRP (designated K7) was determined and found to be a novel member of the kinesin superfamily. The motor domain of K7 is most similar to that of conventional kinesin, but unlike conventional kinesin, K7 is not predicted to have an extensive alpha-helical coiled-coil domain. The nonmotor domain is unusual and is rich in Asn, Gln, and Thr residues; similar sequences are found in other developmentally regulated genes in Dictyostelium. K7, expressed in Escherichia coli, supports plus end-directed microtubule motility in vitro at a speed of 0.14 micron/s, indicating that it is a bona fide motor protein. The K7 motor is found only in developing cells and reaches a peak level of expression between 12 and 16 h after starvation. By immunofluorescence microscopy, K7 localizes to a membranous perinuclear structure. To examine K7 function, we prepared a null cell line but found that these cells show no gross developmental abnormalities. However, when cultivated in the presence of wild-type cells, the K7-null cells are mostly absent from the prestalk zone of the slug. This result suggests that in a population composed largely of wild-type cells, the absence of the K7 motor protein interferes either with the ability of the cells to localize to the prestalk zone or to differentiate into prestalk cells.