Recently, metabolic enzymes have been observed in both the lens and corneal epithelium at levels greatly exceeding what is necessary for normal metabolic functions. These proteins have been termed taxon-specific crystallins and are thought to play a role in maintaining tissue transparency. We report here that cytosolic NADP+-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH) represents a new corneal crystallin. Using suppression subtractive hybridization, we identified a gene (with a deduced amino acid sequence that showed 94% identity to rat cytosolic NADP+-dependent ICDH) that is preferentially expressed in bovine corneal epithelium. Northern blots established that its mRNA level in the corneal epithelium was 31-, 39-, 133-, 230-, and 929-fold more than in the liver, bladder epithelium, stomach epithelium, brain, and heart, respectively. This mRNA was detected primarily in corneal epithelial basal cells by in situ hybridization. SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, two-dimensional gel analysis, and Western blotting showed that this protein was overexpressed in the corneal epithelium, constituting approximately 13% of the total soluble bovine corneal epithelial proteins. Enzyme assays showed a corresponding overabundance of this protein in bovine corneal epithelium. Taken together, these data indicate that bovine cytosolic ICDH fulfills the criteria for a corneal epithelial crystallin and may be involved in maintaining corneal epithelial transparency.