Exposure of cultured rabbit lens epithelial cells to repetitive doses of UV-B radiation delays their growth and alters the synthesis of specific proteins. Irradiated cells on the shoulder of the survival curve exhibited a dose-dependent decrease in growth when subcultured in serum-supplemented medium. UV-B irradiation did not affect the subsequent attachment efficiency of the cells. Control and UV-B irradiated cells were incubated with [35S]methionine and the pattern of protein synthesis in the cells was analyzed by SDS-PAGE and autoradiography. Analysis of the labeled proteins from cells exposed to UV-B radiation showed the induction of a 32 kD polypeptide and the loss of a 26 kD polypeptide compared with controls. Analysis of the proteins released by the UV-B irradiated cells into the culture medium revealed the 50% loss of a 37 kD radiolabeled protein compared with controls. The alteration of protein synthesis in lens epithelial cells by UV-B radiation may contribute to cataract formation.