The lens of the vertebrate eye was the classic model used to demonstrate the concepts of inductive interactions controlling development. However, it is in the Drosophila model that the greatest progress in understanding molecular mechanisms of eye development have most recently been mode. This progress can be attributed to the power of molecular genetics, an approach that was once confined to simpler systems like worms and flies, but is now becoming possible in vertebrates. Thus, the use of transgenic and knock-out gene technology, coupled with the availability of new positional cloning methods, has recently initiated a surge of progress in the mouse genetic model and has also led to the identification of genes involved in human inherited disorders. In addition, gene transfer techniques have opened up opportunities for progress using chick, Xenopus, and other classic developmental systems. Finally, a new vertebrate genetic model, zebrafish, appears very promising for molecular studies. As a result of the opportunities presented by these new approaches, eye development has come into the limelight, hence the timeliness of this focus issue of Developmental Genetics. In this introductory review, we discuss three areas of current work arising through the use of these newer genetic approaches, and pertinent to research articles presented herein. We also touch on related studies reported at the first Keystone Meeting on Ocular Cell and Molecular Biology, recently held in Tamarron Springs, Colorado, January 7-12, 1997.