Apolipoprotein D (apoD), a glycoprotein originally characterized as a component of the high density lipoprotein fraction of human plasma and known to be a member of the lipocalin protein superfamily, has been found in human tear fluid by Western blot analysis. Unlike serum it seems that in the tear fluid apoD exists mainly as a disulphide linked homodimer which is not associated with lecithin/cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) or apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I). By reverse-transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) of mRNA extracted from a human lacrimal gland and use of specific primers we could demonstrate expression of the apoD gene in this tissue. The amplified cDNA was cloned and a subsequent sequence analysis confirmed the identity of apoD mRNA in the human lacrimal gland. These investigations indicate that the lacrimal gland is the site of synthesis of the tear fluid apoD. Although the physiological function of apoD is unknown, it has the ability to bind phospholipids, cholesterol and other small hydrophobic molecules. Therefore, this protein might interact with meibomian lipids present in human tear fluid and probably contribute to the surface spreading of these lipids or it may function as a clearance factor, protecting the cornea from harmful lipophilic molecules.