Lens epithelial cells undergo a dramatic transformation during the process of differentiation into elongated fiber cells. The membrane-associated actin cytoskeleton is likely to play a critical role in the stabilization and maintenance of the highly elongated fiber cell shape. Tropomodulin is a tropomyosin-binding protein associated with actin filaments in a variety of terminally differentiated cell types where stable actin filament organization is required for cell function. We now present results of studies to determine the temporal expression of tropomodulin in the developing lens. In situ hybridization experiments detected expression of tropomodulin mRNA in the developing mouse lens in elongating cells with a pattern similar to that of the fiber specific beta- and gamma-crystallins. Tropomodulin mRNA expression first appeared around 11.5 days post-coitum in elongating cells in the posterior part of the lens vesicle. At later stages the signal for tropomodulin was present in the elongating cells at the lens equator and in cortical fiber cells; signal was absent from the epithelium. To investigate the possible link between tropomodulin expression and fiber differentiation we used a well-established lens epithelial explant culture system in which fiber differentiation is induced by fibroblast growth factor (FGF). Tropomodulin expression was only observed in FGF-treated explants in conjunction with morphologic changes characteristic of lens fiber cell differentiation. The appearance of tropomodulin during the process of fiber cell differentiation suggests that tropomodulin may be important for stabilization and/or determination of actin filament length.