Lumican is an extracellular matrix glycoprotein widely distributed in mammalian connective tissues. Corneal lumican modified with keratan sulfate constitutes one of the major proteoglycans of the stroma. Lumican-null mice exhibit altered collagen fibril organization and loss of corneal transparency. A closely related protein, keratocan, carries the remaining keratan sulfate of the cornea, but keratocan-null mice exhibit a less severe corneal phenotype. In the current study, we examined the effect of lumican overexpression in corneas of wild type mice. These mice showed no alteration in collagen organization or transparency but had increased keratocan expression at both protein and mRNA levels. Corneas of lumican-null mice showed decreased keratocan. This coupling of keratocan expression with lumican also was observed after intrastromal injection of a lumican expression minigene into the corneal stroma of Lum-/- mice. Small interfering RNA knockdown of lumican in vitro reduced keratocan expression, whereas co-injection of a lumican-expressing minigene with a beta-galactosidase reporter driven by the keratocan promoter demonstrated an increase of keratocan transcriptional activity in response to lumican expression in Lum-/- corneas in vivo. These observations demonstrate that lumican has a novel regulatory role in keratocan expression at the transcriptional level. Such results help provide an explanation for the differences in severity of corneal manifestation found in Lum-/- and Kera-/- mice. The results also suggest a critical level of small proteoglycans to be essential for collagen organization but that overabundance is not detrimental to extracellular matrix morphogenesis.