Lumican is one of the major keratan sulfate proteoglycans (KSPG) in vertebrate corneas. We previously cloned the murine lumican cDNA. This study determines the structure of murine lumican gene (Lum) and its expression during mouse embryonic developments. The mouse lumican gene was isolated from a bacterial artificial chromosome mouse genomic DNA library and characterized by polymerase chain reaction and Southern hybridization. The lumican gene spans 6.9 kilobase pairs of mouse genome. The gene consists of three exons and two introns. Exon 1 constitutes 88 bases (b) of untranslated sequence. Exon 2 is 883 b and contains most of the coding sequence of lumican mRNA, and exon 3 has 152 b of coding sequence and 659 b of 3' noncoding sequence. The mouse lumican gene has a TATCA element, a presumptive TATA box, which locates 27 b 5'-upstream from the transcription initiation site. Northern hybridization and in situ hybridization indicate that in early stages of embryonic development, day 7 post coitus the embryo expresses little or no lumican. Thereafter, different levels of lumican mRNA can be detected in various organ systems, such as cornea stroma, dermis, cartilage, heart, lung, and kidney. The cornea and heart are the two tissues that have the highest expression in adult. Immunoblotting studies found that KSPG core proteins became abundant in the cornea and sclera by postnatal day 10 but that sulfated KSPG could not be detected until after the eyes open. These results indicate that lumican is widely distributed in most interstitial connective tissues. The modification of lumican with keratan sulfates in cornea is concurrent with eye opening and may contribute to corneal transparency.