Post-translational modifications of the water-soluble human lens crystallins from young adult donors were identified and located using electrospray ionization mass spectrometric analysis of the intact proteins and fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry of enzymatic digests. Peptides corresponding to all of the sequences of alpha A-, alpha B-, and beta B2-crystallins were found, permitting the entire sequences to be searched for modifications. The major portions of these three crystallins were not modified. Modifications of alpha A-crystallin that were detected included 2 phosphorylated Ser residues (1 of which appears to be unique to human lenses), deamidation at some Gln and Asn residues, a disulfide bond between Cys-131 and Cys-142, and loss of the COOH-terminal Ser residue. Three phosphorylated Ser residues, but no deamidation, were found in alpha B-crystallin. The molecular weights of neither the intact protein nor the peptides in the enzymatic digests indicated any post-translational modification of the principal beta-crystallin, beta B2. The molecular weights of the other beta- and gamma-crystallins for which sequences have been published suggested the presence of post-translational modifications or errors in the published sequences. Although enough peptides were found to establish the presence of specific proteins, peptides corresponding to all portions of these proteins were not found, and elucidation of these structures is not yet complete. This mass spectrometric characterization of the total water-soluble proteins from normal young adult lenses provides a reference data base for future investigations of the modifications present in aged and cataractous lenses.