Abstract The trilaminar tear film, composed of the lipid, aqueous and mucin layers, has many functions including defending the ocular surface. The aqueous layer has several soluble antimicrobial factors that protect the ocular surface. Ocular mucins have recently been studied with regard to their role in the defense of the eye as well as in dry eye syndromes. To date, 15 mucin genes have been identified, and six of these mucin genes are localized to or secreted by ocular glands or epithelia. Understanding the production, secretion and function of ocular mucins will aid in the treatment of dry eye syndromes and ocular surface microbial infections.