RX, a homeodomain-containing protein essential for proper eye development (Mathers, P. H. Grinberg, A., Mahon, K. A., and Jamrich, M. (1997) Nature 387, 603-607), binds to the photoreceptor conserved element-1 (PCE-1/Ret 1) in the photoreceptor cell-specific arrestin promoter and stimulates gene expression. RX is found in many retinal cell types including photoreceptor cells. Another homeodomain-containing protein, CRX, which binds to the OTX element to stimulate promoter activity, is found exclusively in photoreceptor cells (Chen, S., Wang, Q. L., Nie, Z., Sun, H., Lennon, G., Copeland, N. G., Gillbert, D. J. Jenkins, N. A., and Zack, D. J. (1997) Neuron 19, 1017-1030; Furukawa, T., Morrow, E. M., and Cepko, C. L. (1997) Cell 91, 531-541). Binding assay and cell culture studies indicate that both PCE-1 and OTX elements and at least two different regulatory factors RX and CRX are necessary for high level, photoreceptor cell-restricted gene expression. Thus, photoreceptor specificity can be achieved by multiple promoter elements interacting with a combination of both photoreceptor-specific regulatory factors and factors present in closely related cell lineages.