Based on the fact that the development of sea urchin embryos is arrested at the blastula stage in sulfate-free sea water (SFSW), we attempted in the present study to elucidate the nature of sulfated polysaccharides (PSs) which appear at the time of gastrulation in embryos of the sea urchin Clypeaster japonicus. Electrophoretic analysis of PSs prepared from embryos at different developmental stages revealed that three kinds of PSs (3A, 3B, 3C) appear de novo at the gastrula stage, and that these PSs are not found in embryos at the hatching blastula stage, nor are they found in permanent blastula reared in SFSW. These, three PSs were mostly of extracellular matrix origin. Among them, 3C was identified as dermatan sulfate on the basis of its electrophoretic mobility and sensitivity to enzymatic digestion. 3A and 3B remained to be identified. Further, a plausible precursor of 3C, which was sulfated under normal conditions, was detected as 6D in the embryos reared in SFSW. Autoradiographic analysis using [ 35S]sulfate revealed that these three PSs, accounted for more than 90% of [ 35S]sulfate incorporated into the acid PS fraction during gastrulation.