X-linked retinoschisis is characterized by microcystic-like changes of the macular region and schisis within the inner retinal layers, leading to visual deterioration in males. Many missense and protein-truncating mutations of the causative gene RS1 have now been identified and are thought to be inactivating. RS1 encodes a 224 amino acid protein, retinoschisin, which contains a discoidin domain but is of unknown function. We have generated a polyclonal antibody against a peptide from a unique region within retinoschisin, which detects a protein of approximately 28 kDa in retinal samples reduced with dithiothreitol, but multimers sized >40 kDa under non-reducing conditions. A screen of human tissues with this antibody reveals retinoschisin to be retina specific and the antibody detects a protein of similar size in bovine and murine retinae. We investigated the expression pattern in the retina of both RS1 mRNA (using in situ hybridization with riboprobes) and retinoschisin (using immunohistochemistry). The antisense riboprobe detected RS1 mRNA only in the photoreceptor layer but the protein product of the gene was present both in the photoreceptors and within the inner portions of the retina. Furthermore, differentiated retinoblastoma cells (Weri-Rb1 cells) were found to express RS1 mRNA and to release retinoschisin. These results suggest that retinoschisin is released by photo-receptors and has functions within the inner retinal layers. Thus, X-linked retinoschisis is caused by abnormalities in a putative secreted photoreceptor protein and is the first example of a secreted photo-receptor protein associated with a retinal dystrophy.