Genetic ablation techniques were used to study the role of the lens in mammalian eye development. Ablation was accomplished by microinjecting murine eggs with chimeric DNA constructs in which the alpha A-crystallin gene regulatory sequence (-366 to +46) was fused to the highly cytotoxic diphtheria toxin gene coding sequence. For genetic ablation to be successful the promoter regulating expression should be specific and completely silent in cells necessary for normal mouse development. In this report, we describe the generation and analysis of transgenic mice with this readily discernible phenotype: aphakia or eyes without lens. Of the 109 live-born pups, eight carried the transgene and could be grouped according to the apparent severity of eye malformations. Lines 4, 5 and 6 founder (F0) mice had the most severe phenotype. Histological analysis revealed: marked reduction in eye size, total absence of lens, increased retinal cell density and extensive whorling of the retinal fibre layers. The line 1 F0 mouse displayed a distinct lens opacity and lines 2, 3 and 8 F0 mice were mosaics with a relatively mild, but most unusual phenotype. Their eyes contained a small, highly vacuolated lens. The progeny of these mosaics that inherited the transgene, however, again exhibited the severe phenotype. The aberrant structures of the eyes in which complete genetic ablation of the lens has been achieved suggest that the lens plays a pivotal role in the development of multiple components of the murine eye.