α-Crystallins are small heat-shock proteins important to lens transparency that provide the lens with its refractive properties. In their role as molecular chaperones, these crystallins also prevent protein aggregation, affect cytoskeletal remodeling, enhance resistance to cell stress, and provide lens cells with protection against apoptosis. While many of the functions assigned to αA-crystallin are attributable to its presence in the cytoplasm of lens cells, αA-crystallin also has been detected at the lens plasma membrane. However, how αA-crystallin becomes linked to the plasma membrane or what its functions are at this site has remained unknown. In this study, we examined the mechanisms by which αA-crystallin becomes associated with the lens membrane, focusing specifically on its interaction with membrane receptors, and the differentiation-specificity of these interactions. We also determined how the long-term absence of αA-crystallin alters receptor-linked signaling pathways. αA-crystallin association with membrane receptors was determined by co-immunoprecipitation analysis; its membrane localization was examined by confocal imaging; and the effect of αA-crystallin loss-of-function on the activation state of signaling molecules in pathways linked to membrane receptors was determined by immunoblot analysis. The results show that, in lens epithelial cells, plasma membrane αA-crystallin was primarily localized to apicolateral borders, reflecting the association of αA-crystallin with E-cadherin complexes. These studies also provide the first evidence that αA-crystallin maintained its association with the plasma membrane in lens cortical fiber cells, where it was localized to lateral interfaces, and further show that this association was mediated, in part, by αA-crystallin interaction with α6 integrin receptor complexes. We report that the absence of αA-crystallin led to constitutive activation of the stress kinases p38 and JNK, classical inducers of apoptotic cell death, and the loss of the phospho-Bad pro-survival signal, effects that were greatest in differentiating lens fiber cells. Concurrent with this, activation of FAK and ERK kinases was increased, demonstrating that these receptor-linked pathways also were dysregulated in the absence of αA-crystallin. These data link αA-crystallin plasma membrane association to its differentiation-state-specific interaction with E-cadherin and α6 integrin receptor complexes. The changes in cell signaling in αA-crystallin-null lenses suggest that dysregulation of receptor-linked cell-signaling pathways that accompany the failure of αA-crystallin to associate with membrane receptors may be responsible for the induction of apoptosis. The observed changes in lens cell signaling likely reflect long-term functional adaptations to the absence of the αA-crystallin chaperone/small heat-shock protein.