A subpopulation of cells expresses MyoD mRNA and the cell surface G8 antigen in the epiblast prior to the onset of gastrulation. When an antibody to the G8 antigen was applied to the epiblast, labeled cells were later found in the ocular primordia and muscle and non-muscle forming tissues of the eyes. In the lens, retina and periocular mesenchyme, G8-positive cells synthesized MyoD mRNA and the bone morphogenetic protein inhibitor Noggin. MyoD expressing cells were ablated in the epiblast by labeling them with the G8 MAb and lysing them with complement. Their ablation in the epiblast resulted in eye defects, including anopthalmia, micropthalmia, altered pigmentation and malformations of the lens and/or retina. The right eye was more severely affected than the left eye. The asymmetry of the eye defects in ablated embryos correlated with differences in the number of residual Noggin producing, MyoD-positive cells in ocular tissues. Exogenously supplied Noggin compensated for the ablated epiblast cells. This study demonstrates that MyoD expressing cells serve as a Noggin delivery system to regulate the morphogenesis of the lens and optic cup.