The beta-crystallin basic principal polypeptide (beta Bp) appears to be altered in the lens of the Philly mouse and may be the main defect in this hereditary cataract. Northern blot analysis showed that an mRNA encoding for beta Bp is present in the Philly mouse lens, but normal beta Bp could not be detected. Instead, a different protein related to beta Bp has been observed. Western blot analysis with antibodies against specific beta Bp peptide sequences showed that the Philly protein shares the same amino-terminal residue as beta Bp but lacks a part of the carboxyl-terminal half of normal beta Bp. The altered protein is slightly smaller than beta Bp and has a more acidic isoelectric point by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. It also lacks the property of heat stability characteristic of normal beta Bp. The mapping of the alteration in beta Bp may give insight into the nature of the heat stability of this protein as well as some indication of the structural components that are necessary to maintain optical clarity in the lens.