Tetrahymena cilia contain a three-headed 22S (outer arm) dynein and a single-headed 14S dynein. In this study, we have employed an in vitro assay of microtubule translocation along dynein-coated glass surfaces to characterize the motile properties of 14S dynein, 22S dynein, and proteolytic fragments of 22S dynein. Microtubule translocation produced by intact 22S dynein and 14S dynein differ in a number of respects including (a) the maximal velocities of movement; (b) the ability of 22S dynein but not 14S dynein to utilize ATP gamma S to induce movement; (c) the optimal pH and ionic conditions for movement; and (d) the effects of Triton X-100 on the velocity of movement. These results indicate that 22S and 14S dyneins have distinct microtubule translocating properties and suggest that these dyneins may have specialized roles in ciliary beating. We have also explored the function of the multiple ATPase heads of 22S dynein by preparing one- and two-headed proteolytic fragments of this three-headed molecule and examining their motile activity in vitro. Unlike the single-headed 14S dynein, the single-headed fragment of 22S dynein did not induce movement, even though it was capable of binding to microtubules. The two-headed fragment, on the other hand, translocated microtubules at velocities similar to those measured for intact 22S dynein (10 microns/sec). This finding indicates that the intact three-headed structure of 22S dynein is not essential for generating microtubule movement, which raises the possibility that multiple heads may serve some regulatory function or may be required for maximal force production in the beating cilium.