Information about beta-crystallins and their post-translational modifications has been scarce because of difficulties in isolating the individual beta-crystallins. These difficulties arise because the beta-crystallin sequences are highly homologous and because beta-crystallins undergo many age-related modifications that lead to a variety of molecular masses and a range of acidities for each crystallin. In this study, human beta-crystallins were isolated using several steps of chromatography both before and after two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Many previously unidentified in vivo modifications, including deamidations among all beta-crystallins except betaB3, truncation of betaA3, betaB1 and betaA4, and oxidation of some methionines and tryptophans were located among the isolated beta-crystallins. Many modifications occurred before age 20 with modest increases in modification for beta-crystallins from lenses 20-87 years old. The tendency of the modified beta-crystallins to form non-covalent complexes was evident from their chromatographic behaviour. The presence in these complexes of betaB2-crystallin, the least modified and most soluble of the beta-crystallins, points to a possible role for betaB2 in solubilizing the more heavily modified beta-crystallins. The greater solubility of beta-crystallins compared with alpha- and gamma-crystallins in aging lenses may be due to beta-crystallin modifications and their non-covalent associations.