The non-pigmented ciliary epithelium is largely responsible for the formation of aqueous humor in the mammalian eye. To provide a basis for studies at the molecular level, a directional expression cDNA library was constructed in Uni-ZAP XR vector from poly A+ RNA of the human non-pigmented ciliary epithelial derived ODM-2 cell line. Fifty-three cDNA clones were isolated from the library and characterized by partial sequence analysis. Approximately 49% of the clones exhibited homology with known genes in the GenBank/EMBL databases. The putative identification of these clones may reflect the transcriptional activity of the ODM-2 cells in culture. One of the identified clones, ODM-42-I, was found to be specific and highly expressed in the corneal epithelium. This clone had an exact match with a recently discovered human gene, beta ig-h3 (Skonier et al., 1992, DNA Cell Biol., 11:511-522), which codes a surface recognition protein, inducible by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), and containing a putative binding site (RDG) for integrins. The ODM-42-I cDNA clone displays a distinctive pattern of expression found in the human eye, expressed almost exclusively in the cornea. Further studies, using sera from a synthetic peptide to the carboxy-terminal region of ODM-42-I, reveal that the protein is heterogeneous in charge and is preferentially expressed on the extracellular surface of corneal epithelial cells, and might share immunologic properties with integrins beta 1.