Cytoplasmic dynein and ncd, a kinesin-related protein from Drosophila, are motor proteins that move toward the minus ends of microtubules, while kinesin moves to the microtubule plus end. In previous work, we examined the nucleotide dependence of motility and enzymatic activity by kinesin [Shimizu, T., Furusawa, K., Ohashi, S., Toyoshima, Y. Y., Okuno, M., Malik, F., & Vale, R. D., (1991) J. Cell Biol. 112, 1189-1197]. In this study, we examined these activities of the cytoplasmic dynein from bovine brain and ncd in order to explore what enzymatic features might be shared by these two minus-end-directed motors. Both ncd and cytoplasmic dynein demonstrated an activation of ATPase activity upon the addition of microtubules (30-fold and 6-fold, respectively). A significant difference between ncd and cytoplasmic dynein was their relative sensitivity to vanadate and to aluminum fluoride. In contrast to cytoplasmic dynein, ncd polypeptide was not cleaved by UV-vanadate treatment, and its ATPase and motility were unaffected by vanadate (up to 0.1 mM). When the nucleotide requirement for movement as examined using a battery of 20 nucleotides and nucleotide analogues, cytoplasmic dynein was found to exhibit a specificity very similar to that of axonemal dyneins from Tetrahymena. Surprisingly, however, the nucleotide specificities of in vitro motility produced by ncd or its construct, GST/MC1 (a fusion protein of glutathione S-transferase and 210-700 of the predicted ncd amino acid sequence), were quite distinct from that of kinesin. Thus, the nucleotide specificity profiles of members of the kinesin motor superfamily do not appear to be identical.