To address the roles of Wnts in the development of the anterior eye, we used a chicken model to perform comprehensive expression analysis of all Wnt genes during anterior eye development. In analyzing the available genomic sequences, we found that the chicken genome encodes 18 Wnt proteins that are homologous to corresponding human and mouse proteins. The mRNA sequences for 12 chicken Wnt genes are available in GenBank, and mRNAs for six other Wnt genes (Wnt2, Wnt5b, Wnt7b, Wnt8b, Wnt9b, and Wnt16) were identified and cloned based on the homology to the genes from other species. In addition, we found that chicken Wnt3a and Wnt7b genes encode two alternative mRNA isoforms containing different first axons. Following in situ hybridization, we found that out of 18 Wnt genes, 11 genes were expressed in the anterior eye, exhibiting distinct temporal-spatial patterns. Several Wnts were expressed in the lens, including Wnt2 and Wnt2b in the anterior epithelium and Wnt5a, Wnt5b, Wnt7a, and Wnt7b in the differentiating lens fiber cells. In the cornea, we detected Wnt3a, Wnt6, and Wnt9b in the ocular surface ectoderm, including the corneal epithelium, and Wnt9a in the corneal endothelium from the onset of its differentiation. In the optic cup, Wnt2, Wnt2b, and Wnt9a were localized in the rim of the optic cup (presumptive iris), while Wnt5a and Wnt16 were detected in the ciliary epithelium/iris zone of the differentiated optic cup, and Wnt6 was expressed in the iridial mesenchyme. These data suggest that Wnt signaling might play important roles in anterior eye development. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.