Studies of others have shown that class 3 aldehyde dehydrogenase is a major component of the epithelial cells of the mammalian cornea. Here we demonstrate by peptide sequencing that other major proteins of the corneal epithelium are also identical or related to enzymes in the human, mouse, kangaroo, chicken, and squid. Aldehyde dehydrogenase class 3 was found to be the major protein of human, mouse, and kangaroo corneal epithelial cells. Peptidyl prolyl cis-trans isomerase (cyclophilin) or a homologue thereof is strikingly abundant in the corneal epithelial cells of chicken, but not mammals, and appears to be absent from the cornea of squid. By contrast, enolase or its homologue is relatively abundant in both the mammalian and chicken corneal epithelial cells. In some instances, abundant enzymes are common to cornea and lens in the same species--for example, arginino-succinate lyase/delta 1-crystallin in the chicken and glutathione S-transferase-like protein in the squid; in other cases, the abundant proteins in the cornea have not been found as lens crystallins in any species--for example, aldehyde dehydrogenase class 3 and cyclophilin. These data suggest that enzymes and certain enzyme-crystallins have been recruited as major corneal proteins in a taxon-specific manner and may serve structural rather than, or as well as, enzymatic roles in corneal epithelial cells.