This study examines the mechanism of mutually exclusive expression of the human X-linked red and green visual pigment genes in their respective cone photoreceptors by asking whether this expression pattern can be produced in a mammal that normally carries only a single X-linked visual pigment gene. To address this question, we generated transgenic mice that carry a single copy of a minimal human X chromosome visual pigment gene array in which the red and green pigment gene transcription units were replaced, respectively, by alkaline phosphatase and beta-galactosidase reporters. As determined by histochemical staining, the reporters are expressed exclusively in cone photoreceptor cells. In 20 transgenic mice carrying any one of three independent transgene insertion events, an average of 63% of expressing cones have alkaline phosphatase activity, 10% have beta-galactosidase activity, and 27% have activity for both reporters. Thus, mutually exclusive expression of red and green pigment transgenes can be achieved in a large fraction of cones in a dichromat mammal, suggesting a facile evolutionary path for the development of trichromacy after visual pigment gene duplication. These observations are consistent with a model of visual pigment expression in which stochastic pairing occurs between a locus control region and either the red or the green pigment gene promotor.