Lim2 is the gene encoding the ocular lens-specific intrinsic membrane protein MP19. We previously reported finding a single nonconservative G->T transversion in exon two of the Lim2 gene. This mutation was linked to the cataract in the To3 (Total opacity number 3) mouse mutant, confirming Lim2 as an ideal candidate gene for the To3 cataract. The aim of the present study was to substantiate a causative relationship between the mutation in the Lim2 gene and cataractogenesis in the To3 mouse mutant. To this end a Lim2To3 transgene cassette was engineered and introduced into fertilized normal mouse embryos to test its ability to induce cataractogenic lens development. A Lim2 genomic clone was isolated and purified from a murine 129/SvJ genomic library. A restriction endonuclease map of the gene was generated using classical Southern techniques. The murine Lim2 promoter was characterized by transfecting primary chicken lens epithelial cells with Lim2 promoter-CAT reporter constructs and assaying promoter activity and specificity. This genomic clone was then used in conjunction with PCR to generate a Lim2To3 transgene cassette. After sequencing of the PCR engineered portion, the Lim2To3 transgene was then used to generate Lim2To3 transgenic mice via pronuclear injection. Founder mice and their offspring from outcrosses and intercrosses were characterized by ophthalmic examination, PCR and Southern DNA analysis, RT-PCR mRNA analysis, and histology of lens sections. Two mice, from independent microinjections, were identified as positive for presence of the Lim2To3 transgene cassette as well as presence of bilateral congenital cataracts and reduced eye size and mass. One of these founders was incapable of germline transmission of the transgene to offspring and was not characterized further. The other was capable of germline transmission and was characterized as described above. PCR DNA analysis revealed a perfect concordance between presence of the Lim2To3 transgene cassette and congenital cataract in offspring of this founder. Transgenic hemizygotes exhibited cataract and a reduction in eye and lens size and mass, while transgenic "homozygotes" presented with a more severe cataract and microphthalmic reduction in eye and lens size and mass. Southern analysis revealed approximately 2 copies of the transgene cassette integrated into a single chromosomal site in the founder and all hemizygous offspring. RT-PCR analysis revealed a very low ratio of Lim2To3 transgenic mRNA compared to endogenous normal Lim2. Finally, histology revealed that lens development was abnormal in mutant transgenic animals by embryonic day E15. By E19, just prior to birth, gross disorganization of secondary fibers was observed in mutants. These transgenic experiments firmly establish a causative relationship between the previously identified mutation in the Lim2 gene and cataractogenesis in the To3 mouse mutant. The low levels of mutant mRNA produced by the transgene cassette as compared to endogenous levels of normal Lim2 mRNA provides evidence that this dominant mutation results in a mutant MP19 protein with altered function rather than simply loss of function.