From analyses of the magnetic field dependence of 1/T1 (NMRD profiles) of water protons in solutions of calf lens alpha-crystallin at several concentrations, we find two regimes of solute behavior in both cortical and nuclear preparations. Below approximately 15% vol/vol protein concentration, the solute molecules appear as compact globular proteins of approximately 1,350 (cortical) and approximately 1,700 (nuclear) kD. At higher concentrations, the effective solute particle size increases, reversibly, as evidenced by the appearance of spectra-like 14N peaks in the NMRD profiles and a change in the field and temperature dependence of 1/T1. At these higher concentrations, the profiles are very similar to those of calf gamma II-crystallin, a crystallin that undergoes an analogous transition near approximately 15% protein (Koenig, S. H., C.F. Beaulieu, R. D. Brown III, and M. Spiller, 1990. Biophys. J. 57:461-469). By comparison with recent analyses of NMRD results for solutions of immobilized proteins as models for the transition from protein solutions to tissue (Koenig, S. H., and R. D. Brown III. 1991. Prog. NMR Spectr. 22:487-567), we argue that alpha-crystallin solute behaves as aggregates approximately greater than 50,000 kD as protein concentration is progressively increased above 15%. Finally, the concentration dependence of the NMRD profiles of alpha- and gamma II-crystallin can readily explain recent osmotic pressure data, in particular the intersection of the respective pressure curves at approximately 23% vol/vol (Vérétout, F., and A. Tardieu. 1989. Eur. Biophys. J. 17:61-68).