An autosomal dominant congenital cataract in humans is associated with mutation of Arg-116 to Cys in alphaA-crystallin (alphaA-R116C). The chaperone activity and biophysical properties of reconstituted alpha-crystallin from different proportions of wild-type alphaB-crystallin (alphaB-wt) and alphaA-R116C-crystallin were studied by gel permeation chromatography, SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and fluorescence and circular dichroism spectroscopy and compared with those of reconstituted alpha-crystallin from alphaB-wt and wild-type alphaA-crystallin (alphaA-wt). The reconstituted alpha-crystallin containing alphaA-R116C and alphaB-wt had a higher molecular mass, a higher thermal sensitivity to exposition of Trp side chains, fewer available hydrophobic surfaces, and lower chaperone activity than the alpha-crystallin containing alphaA-wt and alphaB-wt. The secondary structure exhibited very small changes, whereas the tertiary structure was distinctly different for alpha-crystallin formed from alphaA-R116C and alphaB-wt. Most importantly, subunit exchange studies by fluorescence resonance energy transfer showed that alphaA-R116C forms heteroaggregates faster than alphaA-wt with alphaB-wt, and the reconstituted alpha-crystallins were true heteroaggregates of two interacting subunits. These findings suggest that the molecular basis for the congenital cataract with the alphaA-R116C mutation is the formation of highly oligomerized heteroaggregates of alpha-crystallin with modified structure. However, contrary to the earlier conclusions based on the studies of homoaggregates, the loss in chaperone activity of the heteroaggregates having alphaA-R116C does not appear to be large enough to become the main factor in initiating cataract development in the affected individuals.